All the Manti Templars had to do was drain a dramatic state record 54-yard field goal in overtime to capture their second 2A title in a row, 16-13.
In fact, if not for Templar kicker Carlos Garcia, the Broncos would be the ones celebrating a state title. Garcia booted three field goals and an extra point for a Manti offense that penetrated the Bronco defense into the endzone just one time.
The Broncos jumped to the lead in the first quarter, when Barkley Christensen scored from the 27 yard line. The extra point failed and San Juan led 6-0.
Defense ruled after that touchdown, although Manti did manage to score and take the lead in the second quarter on a seven yard run. When Garcia booted the first of his field goals, the Templars had a 10-6 halftime lead.
When Garcia added another field goal in the third quarter and with the Bronco offense stymied by a tough Manti defense, it looked like the Templars were on their way to the title. But the Broncos had some heroics left in them.
Barkley Christensen and Logan Meyer had one last gasp in them. Starting with only 46 seconds and 65 yards from paydirt, Christensen moved the ball down the field while completing four passes, the last to Meyer for a six-yard touchdown as time expired. Meyer’s extra point made it 13-13 and time for overtime.
The Templars stopped the Broncos on the very first play with an interception. All Manti had to do was hold on to the ball and bring in Garcia, but after two successive Manti penalties, the Bronco defense rose up one last time, sacking the Manti quarterback and getting a tackle for a loss.
Even so, in came Garcia to try from 54 yards for the game winning field goal, which he amazingly did, the longest field goal ever in a state championship game in Utah.
The Broncos couldn’t manage much offense against the Templars. They rushed for 68 yards on 17 carries, Christensen getting half of those on the touchdown run in the first quarter. Ammon Mitchell ran for 20 yards in his last Bronco game.
Christensen completed 12 of 27 pass for 89 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Justin Nielson had four catches for 35 yards, Bobby Bowring had three catches for 26 yards, and Meyer had that one TD catch on the last play of regulation.
The Bronco defense was great, as it was all season, limiting the Templars to just 150 yards for the game. Maverick Shumway and Bronz Eldredge led the way, with 15 and 14 tackles, respectively. Logan Meyer added nine, Trevor Buck eight, Mason Shumway seven and Bobby Bowring seven, including three for losses.
After the game, Bronco head coach Monty Lee said, “Wow what a ride! Having been in the finals a few times, I would like to think it would get easier to prepare for, but it doesn’t.
“After the game it is so easy to second guess a hundred calls or decisions, but the one thing I have learned, when you make your bed, you lie in it and let the world around you be your critic.
“There are no words that could do justice to how proud I am of our kids. They will be able to look back on this game and have disappointments but they can leave knowing they all played their hearts out.
“I have said a dozen times that it is just a game. For those that make light of that, they have probably never won anything or had to work their guts out to accomplish a goal.
“Make no mistake, no one wanted to win more than these players or coaches. Each of them moved up my ladder of honor with their performance and commitment. My thanks to my boys, coaches, parents, fans, and those who were pulling for these kids.
“Manti was a great team and earned that win. It does make it a little easier when you get beat by a good team. I have a lot of respect for their players and coaches.”
With the loss, the Bronco record in state championship games drops to 6-7, with four losses being by three points.
The Broncos lost 9-6 to Delta in 1991, 21-18 to Morgan in ‘93, 9-6 to Kanab in ’94, and that memorable 25-22 game with Grand County when the Red Devils scored the go ahead touchdown with just a minute left.
You will be entertained, win or lose, watching the Broncos play in the state championship.