NS Hawks down Templars take #1 ranking in 3A

North Sanpete Hawk senior Payton Clawson #15 runs with the ball against the rival Manti Templars on Oct. 4. The Hawks won the game 28-14 and are now ranked #1 in 3A football. (Photo courtesy of Shauna Watts)

MT. PLEASANT — North Sanpete Hawks football hosted rival school the Manti Templars for a highly anticipated game on the North Sanpete High School home field Oct. 4. Being the last home game of the season, North Sanpete came out victorious with an impressive defensive show from senior Jaxton Langschwager and junior Cole Mickel who helped lead the Hawks to victory.

According to the new Rating Percentage Index (RPI) ranking system implemented this year by the Utah High School Athletics Association, Manti was ranked first in state of the 3A schools with North Sanpete following close behind in fourth place.

With the current RPI ranking adding to the overall importance of the rivalry game, both teams brought their best, but the Hawks defense held the Templars and allowed North Sanpete to walk away with the victory.

To start the game, the Hawks quickly moved down the field, however, they reached a point where they were uncertain if they were going to punt or go for the first down.

After a brief timeout, the Hawks decided to go for the first down and sophomore quarterback Landon Bowles completed a pass to senior Payton Clawson and the Hawks gained the first down plus some.

With newfound energy, North Sanpete continued to push down the field until senior Connor Jorgenson ran in a hand-off for the Hawks first touchdown. Senior Luis Rodriguez then kicked in the extra point.

Manti tried to answer back, but North Sanpete’s defense allowed Manti to gain little yardage with Cole Mickel sacking the Templar’s quarterback in the process.

Having regained possession of the ball, the Hawks pushed down the field yet again and Bowles was able to complete a 47-yard pass to senior Payton Clawson for another Hawks touchdown. With Rodriguez kicking in the extra point, North Sanpete finished the first quarter leading the Templars 14-0.

Manti started the second quarter with possession, but quickly lost it after the Hawks forced the Templars to punt. However, a fumble from the Hawks was quickly recovered by Manti allowing them to gain yardage and eventually permitting Templar Travis Thomson to score.

Manti kicked in the extra point, bringing the score to 14-7 in favor of the Hawks before the end of the first half.

When the second half began, it appeared that the Templars were going to score again as they completed several passes and pushed North Sanpete down the field. However, the Hawks held Manti forcing them to punt which allowed North Sanpete to regain possession.

But the Hawks were unable to gain yardage and were forced to punt. Then after Manti regained possession of the ball, the Hawks were charged with a 15-yard penalty.

With the Templars now on the 45-yard line, the pressure was on for North Sanpete, but senior Jaxton Langschwager was able to again sack the Templar quarterback.

With the Hawks still in a pressure situation, Mickel again stepped up his defensive play and intercepted a pass from the Manti quarterback and returned it for a 75-yard touchdown bringing the score to 21-7 for the Hawks.

After the 75-yard return from Mickel, and another Manti quarterback sack by Hawk’s senior Alex Mower, North Sanpete couldn’t be stopped. The Hawks continued into the fourth quarter with another touchdown by Payton Clawson and extra point kick by Rodriguez.

The Templars tried to hang on to any hope of tying up the game, but it was a vain attempt as the deficit was too much for Manti to overcome. Manti was able to score one last touchdown with only seconds left in the game bringing the final score to 28-14 giving North Sanpete the victory.

North Sanpete Head Coach Rhett Bird said, “We played great defense and Cole definitely had the play of the game with that interception. I do think the most important aspect of the game was our offensive line.”

“This was the first time that I saw a complete game where we drive guys off the ball and finished down field blocking,” Bird said. “This game was huge in the way that we responded after a tough loss against Juab.”

When asked what they did to prepare after the previous Juab loss, senior Jaxton Langschwager said, “We started to have more intense practices. We also looked back on what we messed up on to improve for our Manti game.”

When asked about the defense in the Manti game, Langschwager said, “The coaches know how to put us in the best positions throughout the game to make plays. Also our defensive linemen played a huge part by keeping their offensive line busy, which allows the rest of us to make plays.”

North Sanpete High School is now RPI ranked as #1 in 3A Football. The Hawk team has won seven games, having lost only one game against the Juab Wasps.

The Hawks will play again on Friday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m., against the Union High School Cougars, 850 East Lagoon Street, Roosevelt.