Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Manti goalie Antonio Jimenez, top, and Layton Christian's Diego Perez collide during Manti's 2A semifinal victory.

DRAPER — Manti coach Gerald Wayman wasn't worried when his team fell behind in the first half of Friday's 2A semifinals. In fact, he was secretly glad.

"All season long my kids have scored better after they got scored on. They kind of play flat until something wakes them up, and sadly it took that again this game," said Wayman.

That wake-up call came when Layton Christian scored in the 30th minute, but after that it was all Manti.

Juan Miguel equalized before halftime, and then Carlo Garcia tacked on two goals in a dominant second half as Manti rolled to the 3-1 victory over Layton Christian at Juan Diego High School.

The Templars will face St. Joseph in the championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. St. Joseph took care of business with a 3-0 victory over Wasatch Academy in the second semifinal.

Manti had advanced out of the first round just once in four previous trips to the state tournament prior to this year, but Wayman believes this year's success has been a natural progression.

"We've been battling every year. We've made it to state every year, but this was the first year we've been able to continue going," said Wayman, whose team has won nine straight.

The favorite heading into the match, Manti certainly didn't play like it early on. Whether it was the six-day break since its quarterfinal victory over Waterford or just nerves, Wayman said his team came out very flat.

Ironically enough, it was Layton Christian leading scorer Ignacio Baeza who provided the wake-up call Manti needed. The diminutive midfielder uncorked a fantastic shot from 30 yards that slipped just inside the post to put the Eagles in front 1-0 in the 30th minute.

It took Manti just three minutes to equalize as Miguel tracked down and buried a long ball from sophomore sweeper Emmanuel Vega to level the score at 1-1.

After finally settling into the match, Manti did a great job defensively the rest of the way in frustrating Layton Christian.

"We didn't let them have many opportunities. We just marked them tight when they brought it up the middle and we tried to push them out wide," said Wayman.

Just four minutes into the second half, Vega connected with Garcia on another long ball, and Garcia easily slotted the shot past Layton Christian's keeper for the 2-1 advantage. In the 51st minute, Garcia doubled the advantage on an assist from Alvaro Cardenas.

"I'm pretty excited that I scored," said Garcia, who now has 22 goals on the year.