KAMAS — In Friday's highly anticipated 2A showdown between No. 2 Manti and No. 3 South Summit, one 93-yard pass play determined everything.
South Summit never really recovered from the stunning play, while Manti rode the momentum from that first quarter touchdown pass to a convincing 21-0 victory over South Summit.
"They're real physical inside, we knew we were going to have to mix it up and throw the ball against them. We were able to catch them on a couple big ones, and that one in particular," said Manti coach Cole Meacham.
With the victory Manti improved to 4-0 in the 2A North region, and the defending 2A state champs are now in the driver's seat for another region title.
The decisive momentum came with 3:28 remaining in the first quarter. With Manti facing third-and-19 from its own 7-yard line, junior quarterback Connor Aste hit Jamen Miller up the right sideline, and Miller outraced two defenders to the end zone for the 7-0 lead.
"That hook and go double move has worked for us all season," said Miller, who finished with 132 receiving yards on four receptions. "That shifted the whole game."
The passing game was about the only thing Manti's offense could get going, as leading rusher Austin Jackson was held to 29 yards on eight carries. Aste came up big though by completing 9 of 16 passes for 238 yards.
Defensively, Manti didn't let South Summit get anything going on the ground or through the air. It began by taking away the edges for Wildcat running backs Porter Santos and Hayden Packard.
"If either one of them is getting the pitch on the outside on a consistent basis, they're going to break one. They have great speed, so we just figured we're better off with them throwing the ball," said Meacham.
When South Summit did throw, Manti's secondary was ready.
Just three plays after Manti took the 7-0 lead, Tyler Albee intercepted South Summit quarterback Caden Christenson on third down. The Templars took advantage of the short field with Austin Jackson punching it in from 1 yard out for the 14-0 lead.
Following another South Summit interception, this one by Miller, Manti increased its lead to 21-0 with 4:01 remaining in the second quarter as Jackson capped a 12-play drive with a 3-yard TD run.
Even though Manti had two field goals blocked in the second half and failed to score, defensively it forced two more South Summit turnovers in the second half to record its second shutout of the season.
"We knew we were pretty strong, but we played really good tonight," said Miller.
With three games remaining against North Sevier, American Leadership and Millard, at worst Manti realistically locked up a share of its eighth region title in school history on Friday.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company