MANTI Cole Meacham would've preferred to start more seniors two years ago, but the Manti football coach just didn't have that luxury. There were only three on the team, which made it necessary for a boatload of sophomores and juniors to play a lot of minutes.
The end result was worse than expected with a 1-8 record.
The frustration of 2006 is about to pay off. Manti returns five starters on offense and five on defense, most of whom are also three-year starters.
"With that many young kids playing that year, we figured this was a good class, and if we kept their spirits up after a 1-8 year we'd be alright," said Meacham.
In addition to Griffin Aste, a three-year starting quarterback, other three-year starters include Nick Brown, Jens Howe, Chase Stevens and Jake Bleazard.
The experience has created high expectations in Manti the year after a quarterfinal loss to Grand, with the Templars pegged by the coaches to finish tied at the top of its region.
Aste, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound quarterback, will garner much of the attention this year in The Fly offense with his ability to run and pass. It's the supporting cast of skill players around him that's critical, particularly the three ball carriers. Stevens, Zac Roundy and Russell Hugentobler will each get plenty of touches out of the backfield this year, with Calen Jones and Devan Fowles also getting in the mix.
Even though running the ball is still Manti's forte, with Aste's arm strength the coaching staff is hoping to pass the ball a bit more this year, great news for wide receiver Brown and tight end Howe. At 6-foot-2, Brown is a big target one Snow College is interested in.
It's in the trenches where there are concerns for Manti.
"Up front we're young. We're only returning two kids that started," said Meacham.
The two returning starters on the offensive line are Bleazard and Seth Gergetz, but beyond them there's definitely going to be an adjustment period.
Defensively the Templars are outstanding. Aste is a beast at defensive end. The linebacking core of Stevens, Mathew Olson, Howe and Hugentobler is very solid as well.
MANTI TEMPLARS PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW
COACH: Cole Meacham is beginning his ninth year as Manti's head coaching, with a 56-28 overall record.
KEY PLAYERS: Griffin Aste figures to be one of the best players in 2A this year, with the potential to dominate at quarterback and defensive end. Big things are also expected of Chase Stevens at running back and linebacker. Russell Hugentobler and Zac Roundy will also contribute to the running game.
QUESTION MARK: Manti lacks experience up front with only two returning starters on the offensive and defensive line. As a result, Aste will likely be asked to do a lot of passing on the run this year both by design and out of necessity.
LAST YEAR: 7-4, lost in quarterfinals to Grand.
PREDICTED 2A NORTH FINISH: Tied for first with North Summit and Juab.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: This team is good enough to contend for the 2A North title and make a run at its first state title since 2003.
Aug. 22 RICHFIELD, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 at Union, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Kanab, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 MILLARD, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 at ALA, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 NORTH SUMMIT, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 at at Juab, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at South Summit, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 GUNNISON, 7 p.m.
Seth Gergetz (big hair)
E-mail: [email protected]