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Manti coach Cole Meacham has guided the Templars to three state titles in his 14 years as coach, but he now faces his most difficult challenge to date.
Repeat as state champions at a higher level.
The defending Class 2A state champs appear well armed to defend their title at the 3A level. The Templars return seven players on offense and five on defense.
Meacham says Manti is better equipped to air it out more this season. Quarterback Connor Aste returns to run the offense and has several options to help him carry the load. Brad Sego, Trevor Alder and Tyler Albee should see some passes thrown their way, and Jared Schiess will be hard to miss at tight end. He also will be used in the backfield.
Even though Manti will be more of a threat to pass, the Templars still will rely on their traditionally strong rushing attack, which should get a boost from TJ Pogroszewski and Kamren Fowles.
"We have been a run-oriented team in the past, but this year I think we will have the ability to throw more," Meacham said. "I think our offensive and defensive lines will be a strength, and our quarterback, Connor Aste, is throwing the ball very well right now."
Manti is confident the experience Dane Howe, Keltn Pritchard and Dylan Brown got starting last year will solidify the offensive line.
Overall, this is a group that should be able to compete for the state title if the success of last year shows up in the form of confidence without complacency.
ASSIGNMENT • Class 3A South
LAST YEAR • 11-1 overall, 7-0 Class 2A North
KEY RETURNER • At 6 foot 3 and 230 pounds, Jared Schiess will be a force at both tight end and on the defensive line.
PLAYER TO WATCH • Expect Manti to get a little more air time with quarterback Connor Aste back for another season.
BIGGEST HOLE • The Templars may not have any glaring holes, but just how well players accept various roles will determine the Templars' success.
NEED TO KNOW • More of an emphasis on the passing game should help the running game be more productive.