Thank goodness for Carlo. He saved the day for us and we owe Carlo everything. —Manti quarterback Connor Aste
PLEASANT GROVE — A kicker is rarely the most popular player on any football team, but Manti is likely OK with its kicker having that title — ecstatic, in fact. Senior Carlo Garcia confidently booted a 54-yard field goal in overtime to give his team a 16-13 victory over San Juan Saturday and secure Manti’s second-straight 2A state championship.
Garcia’s kick saved a team that was primed to coast to victory with just under a minute left in regulation. A late collapse defensively combined with inexplicable penalties forced Manti to put the game completely on the leg of its kicker.
In the end, though, Garcia came through in the biggest possible moment.
“There was no doubt," said Manti senior Jamen Miller about his emotions just prior to the kick." . He makes them all the time in practice — he’s money. I thought it wouldn‘t (come down to Garcia‘s kick), but it makes it more fun.”
It sure was fun for the Templars afterward.
Garcia was hoisted on his teammates' shoulders following his game-winning kick and was at a loss for words to describe his emotions.
“This is the best feeling in the world,” said Garcia. “It means a lot — not only to me, but to my school and my team — we’re like a family.”
Manti used a dominant defensive performance and prime field position to build a 13-7 lead early in the second half — holding that lead until just 46.7 seconds remained in regulation. At that point, San Juan, which had gained just 87 yards of total offense, needed to drive the ball 65 yards with no timeouts to tie the game.
Despite the prior futility, however, San Juan quarterback Barkley Christensen calmly guided the Broncos down the field with 4-8 passing for 50 yards. He hit Logan Meyer in the corner of the end zone as time expired to stunningly pull the Broncos within a point, pending the PAT. Following Meyer’s made extra point, Manti’s sideline was seemingly shell-shocked with the developments.
But not the Templars' defense.
“Our defense came off the field smiling saying, ‘Let’s go to overtime. Let’s go win,” said Manti coach Cole Meachem. “They were just excited to get to play a few more downs, I guess.”
One of those defensive players was Miller, who promptly picked off a Christensen pass attempt on the very first play of overtime.
“They had the momentum, but our defense played big all game and stepped up at the end,” said Miller about his interception. “I was just waiting back there and the ball kind of just kind of came to me.”
The momentum was snatched back by Manti at that point with little thought it could screw up — only needing a field goal to win the game and the championship. But screw it up it did — almost.
Following a 3-yard run, the Templars were whistled for two straight delay-of-game penalties and then incurred a 10-yard loss after quarterback Connor Aste was sacked attempting to convert a third-and-long.
Enter Garcia, who had already hit two field goals at that point.
“I was pretty confident, but I was also a little bit worried,” said Garcia about his big moment.
The Templar kicker’s 54-yard made field goal is the longest made field goal in state playoff history.
“Thank goodness for Carlo,” said Aste following the game. “He saved the day for us and we owe Carlo everything. He’s been so good for us all year and it was a team effort, but Carlo — that was just amazing and he saved us. This means so much to us. We‘ve worked so hard as a team and it‘s amazing to win a championship again.”