Jason Olson, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Judge's James Cordova may have the team favored to win this weekend’s 3A state championship football game, but he may also have the harder task as a head coach.
That’s because, as difficult as it is to beat a great team like Manti, it’s even harder to beat the Templars twice in the same season.
And that’s exactly the task facing the top-ranked Judge Bulldogs in this weekend’s 3A state championship game at Weber State University.
“When you beat a good opponent, it’s hard to get the boys focused on the right things,” said the Judge head coach of facing Manti for the second time this season. “That’s what we’re struggling with right now, trying to get focused and ready to play.”
It would seem that Cordova and his team might feel more confident, as they beat the Templars 49-20 just a few weeks ago.
“They’re a good team,” Cordova said. “We had a couple of really good breaks that really tipped the scales in our favor. Now we’re back to square one.”
The Bulldogs are looking forward to facing the Templars, despite the earlier game.
“You want a good matchup and they’re a good team,” Cordova said. “It’s going to be exciting.”
Manti head coach Cole Meacham said his players see an opportunity to rectify some mistakes.
“I think our kids are feeling good,” he said. “They’re feeling like, ‘Hey, let’s see what we can do this time around.’ There is so much that can play into this.” He points out that the Bulldogs could be confident or overconfident. And his boys could choose to be intimidated or inspired.
“They could say, ‘Here is somebody we took it on the chin from, and it would be nice to get them again’,” Meacham said. “They’re a very good team. There are not a whole lot of holes there.”
The Templars have some players back who were injured in that first meeting. They’ve also changed some of their defensive schemes to better deal with Judge’s prolific offense.
“We had a lot of individual breakdowns,” he said. “We’re trying to eliminate those individual breakdowns. Offensively, mentally we took some plays off, turned the ball over and made mental errors with penalties. We need to get rid of them.”
Judge lost sophomore Jacob Cline to a broken leg in the first meeting with Manti.
The Bulldog defense will have to try and slow running back Kamren Fowles, who has more than 1,400 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. The Templars will have to find an answer for the stable of Judge running backs and the team's dual-threat quarterback, Kaden Elliss.
Both communities are excited for their teams to be vying for the 3A state title.
“Everybody is excited,” Cordova said. “Whatever community you’re in, it’s exciting.”