After winning 2A state football titles in 2009 and 2010, losing 35-20 to Millard in the 2011 semifinals was simply not acceptable for the San Juan Broncos.
Preparation for 2012 started in the locker room following that loss to Millard as senior captains-to-be let everyone know 2012 would be different.
"We just told everyone that we were going to work harder than we ever had and that there would be no excuses," running back/linebacker Logan Meyer said.
After a one-year hiatus, the Broncos are back in the title hunt, taking on 2011 champion Manti on Saturday morning at Pleasant Grove High School.
"Manti is just such a good football team," coach Monte Lee said. "They're big up front, extremely well-coached and they can run it and throw it with lethal efficiency."
Lee knows a little something about a diversified offense, and his 2012 squad has given opposing coaches nightmares. Broncos quarterback Barkley Christensen has thrown for 1,900 yards and 21 scores, to complement a running game that has churned out more than 2,600 yards.
"Offensively, they have such athletic kids, and you've got to prepare to defend them sideline to sideline," Manti coach Cole Meacham said.
Christensen has rushed for 546 yards this season, but running backs Meyer, Ammon Mitchell and Justin Nelson combined for nearly 1,600 yards.
"We've been telling our kids to line up in the right place, know what their assignment is and bust their tail until the whistle blows," Meacham said.
Entering the year, Meacham had some serious questions about his team. Just one starter returned on the offensive line, and quarterback Conner Aste had never taken snaps at the varsity level.
Following a 28-6 loss to Juan Diego on Aug. 24, and a 15-14 win over Emery the following week, Manti's offensive line is back to their bruising selves, and Aste, with 15 touchdowns and 1,500 yards, has been making critical decisions to perfection.
"Their line is big and it will be critical for our big guys to play well up front," Meyer said.
Manti looked impressive in its two playoff games, outscoring Beaver and Grand 96-22 en route to the 2A finals. San Juan thumped Emery 56-13 in its playoff opener, but had to come from behind to beat South Summit 15-9 in the semifinals.
San Juan is The Salt Lake Tribune's No. 1 team; Manti is No. 2.
"I think the best two teams made it, and I'm excited to put the final nail in the coffin and see who the better team is," Manti cornerback Colin Haymond said.
Manti vs. San Juan
P Saturday, 11 a.m.
Where • Pleasant Grove High School