Francis’ injury occurred when the Red Devils were holding onto a slim 7-6 lead with about four minutes left in the third quarter. Grand was just inside Beaver’s 20-yard line and threatening to score again, but was unable to do so.
Beaver then took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run by Jesse McMullin. The pass conversion attempt failed, leaving Beaver hanging on to a 12-7 lead.
With Koi Cook filling in at quarterback, the Red Devils made several attempts to score again late in the game, but Grand eventually turned the ball over on downs after four straight incomplete passes with less than two minutes remaining. Beaver ran out the final 1:21 on the clock to win the game.
“We felt like we were the better team, but we let this one get away from us,” said GCHS head coach Dennis Wells. He noted that the Red Devils had the ball for a total of 28 minutes and 30 seconds, compared to Beaver’s total possession time of 19:30.
“We controlled the ball, but they had two big plays on offense that they scored on, both of which were missed assignments,” Wells said. “We were moving the ball and had it as far as the 10-yard line, but penalties hurt us.”
Wells also noted that Grand also bested the Beavers in total yards, 234-206.
Francis, a senior, completed six of 12 passes for 75 yards and threw two interceptions.
“Both [interceptions] were deflected off our own receivers and should have been caught,” Wells said.
Cook, who was 1-for-9 in pass attempts, led the team in rushing with 64 yards on 12 carries. Francis rushed 13 times for 44 yards, while Cameron Taylor added 43 yards on nine rushing attempts.
Grand had taken a 7-0 halftime lead thanks to a seven-yard touchdown run by Taylor in the second quarter, followed by an extra point kick by Francis.
Beaver kicked off to Grand to start the second half, but Taylor fumbled during the kickoff return and Beaver recovered the ball. Two plays later, Beaver’s Kasen Hutchings made his way into the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown run to pull within one point, 7-6.
“Penalties and turnovers killed us,” Wells said. “We battled and felt like we should have won. But these kinds of games will help us later in the season. Hopefully, we learned from this.”
Against Beaver, the Red Devils’ typically high scoring offense was held to more than five touchdowns below its average, after racking up 174 points in their first four games.
X-rays revealed that Francis’ injury was a spiral fracture of the left fibula, which will need at least a month to heal. Still, Francis said he is hopeful he can return to action in time for region and state playoffs in late October and early November. In the meantime, he plans to assist on the sidelines, particularly in the calling of defensive plays.
“We have other weapons that will need to step up,” said coach Wells, adding that Cook and Tanner White are expected to fill in at quarterback, with Taylor taking over Cook’s usual spot in the backfield. Taylor is also expected to see action at Francis’ free safety spot on defense, along with fellow senior Wade Kemmsies.
This week, the Red Devils (now 4-1 overall, 2-1 in 2A South region play) are scheduled to face the Enterprise Wolves (4-1 overall, 2-0 in region) at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27 at Moab.
“Enterprise is a good team,” Wells said. “We will have our work cut out for us. They are tied with Beaver for first place.”
Wells added, “We put ourselves in a hole for the region championship. We can only hope that we take care of the rest of our games and that Beaver gets knocked off by someone.”
Grand’s bad luck also didn’t end when the game was over. The team’s bus broke down on the highway on the way home, about 20 miles north of Beaver. The Red Devil players ended up transferring their gear onto a replacement bus – courtesy of Sevier School District – well after midnight. The team and coaches didn’t make it back to Moab until around 4 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21.
“We will face adversity, and need to find a way to win,” Wells said.