According to GCHS head coach Dennis Wells, it was the Red Devils’ first varsity football win at Blanding in 26 years. Assistant coach Ronald Dolphin said he was a senior on the team when Grand overcame an early 18-0 deficit to beat the Broncos 22-18 on Sept. 18, 1987. Derrick Cook, another member of the current GCHS coaching staff, was a junior on Grand’s squad that year. Both Dolphin and Cook have sons on Grand’s current team.
Since that 1987 Red Devil win at Blanding, the two rivals have faced each other a total of 28 times, with San Juan winning 25 of those contests. Until last week, Grand’s only victories during that stretch were in November of 2005 at Cedar City when Grand beat San Juan 25-22 for the state 2A championship, and the season-opener in the fall of 2006, when Grand won 26-12 in Moab.
Last Thursday, the Broncos got on the scoreboard first with a 35-yard field goal by Kasper Pedersen. San Juan still led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, but Red Devil quarterback Koi Cook scored on a three-yard rushing touchdown with about seven minutes left in the second quarter. Grand kicker Koby Sobremesana nailed the extra-point kick to give the Red Devils a 7-3 lead. Sobremesana later kicked a 29-yard field goal to give Grand a 10-3 halftime lead.
When San Juan kicked off to start the second half, Sobremesana fielded the ball at Grand’s 2-yard line and ran 98 yards for an electrifying kickoff return touchdown.
“I caught the ball, cut right and gave the blockers just enough time to set up a hole,” Sobremesana said after the game. “I hit the hole at the perfect time. A lot of the credit should go to my teammates for their great blocking.”
“After I got through the last line of defenders I saw open field and just ran towards the left pylon,” he added. “I was so happy and excited after that run and knew this was the momentum change we needed to lock in the win.”
A few minutes later, San Juan quarterback Peyton Palmer completed a 36-yard pass to Grant Laws for a touchdown. The Broncos missed the extra-point kick, however, leaving Grand ahead 17-9 at that point.
Cook added a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and a 12-yard TD run in the fourth to bring the final score to 30-9.
Cook finished the game with 118 yards rushing on 23 carries, and completed six of 11 pass attempts for another 67 yards.
Wells said Sobremesana’s kickoff return to start the second half gave the team a much-needed spark after a somewhat sluggish first half.
“Our first couple [of] drives stalled because of their pressure on our quarterback,” Wells said. “After that, we went to a shorter passing and run game to give him time. We started playing quick hitters on the run and short passing game to open it up.”
He praised the Red Devil defense for limiting San Juan’s ability to move the ball and score.
“Both of San Juan’s scores were set up by kickoff returns,” Wells said. “You take away their 36-yard TD pass, and [we] held them to under 100 yards.”
The Red Devils’ next game will be a quarterfinal contest at home, either Nov. 1 or Nov. 2, against the winner of the Millard vs. South Sevier game, which will be played at Millard on Oct. 25. The exact date and time of the following weekend’s contests will be determined after the play-in game takes place. Millard, the No. 3 seed in the 2A North division, is 5-4 this year, while South Sevier, the No. 5 team in 2A South, is 3-6 overall.
Grand hasn’t played Millard this year, but the Red Devils defeated Millard 48-33 in last year’s quarterfinals at Moab. This season, Grand beat South Sevier 23-6 at Monroe on Sept. 13.
Coach Wells said the Red Devils will be ready for either opponent next week.
“Millard isn’t the same team they were last year, but they have tradition like San Juan. They will bring it and give us a great game,” Wells said. “But you can never count out South Sevier.”