DRAPER — Judging by the two teams' regular-season records, you might expect Juan Diego to have had an easy time with Manti in the first round of the 3A playoffs, but that was not the case.
Manti gave Juan Diego all it could handle, but in the end the Soaring Eagle's "bend but don't break" defense was too much for the Templars, who ended up on the losing end, 17-0, Friday night.
Behind 17-0 with a quarter and a half remaining, the Templars put together two strong drives but came away empty both times. The first drive started on the Templars' own 20 and was sustained through 15 plays, but stalled when Brady Aste's pass was tipped away from the receiver on fourth-and-six on the Soaring Eagle 14.
Then, after forcing Juan Diego to punt, Manti started at midfield and drove to the Juan Diego 11, where Aste's pass into the end zone was intercepted by Brock Garn with four minutes remaining in the game.
"We've hung our hats on our defense all year and they proved it again tonight with two big stops there in the fourth quarter on the fourth-down play and the interception in the end zone," said Juan Diego coach John Colosimo. "Our team's resilient. They did bend, but they didn't break."
Juan Diego's defense used the remaining time on the clock with Cody Berg running for 47 of his game-high 114 yards in the final minutes.
In the first half, Manti's inability to hang onto the snap when punting ultimately cost them the game. With just over one minute remaining in the first quarter, sophomore punter Sam Malloy fumbled the snap and was tackled by a horde of Juan Diego players at the Templars' 31. Eight plays later Nathan Elorreaga ran it in from the one to put Juan Diego ahead 7-0.
On the Templars' next possession they were forced to punt from their own end zone. Again, Malloy had trouble hanging onto the ball and fumbled it in the end zone where Dakota Cox fell on it for the touchdown to put Juan Diego ahead 14-0.
Juan Diego's Skyler Doran added a 48-yard field goal early in the second half to push the lead to 17-0.
"It was a typical playoff game, hard fought and physical," said Colosimo. "I knew it would be that way, especially playing Manti and Cole Meacham. I knew from the years we've played them before that they'd be ready and they'd be physical. I was hoping to survive their physicality and I think our guys did a great job."
Juan Diego faces Juab in the second round after it downed Union 35-16 Friday. Manti finishes its season at 5-6.