The Red Devils held a 27-6 lead after three quarters of play, but had to withstand a ferocious fourth-quarter rally by the Rams, who made two separate scoring drives deep into Grand territory in the final few minutes of the contest.
“It was one of those games that has you at the edge of your seat,” said GCHS head coach Dennis Wells, whose team improved to 9-1 on the season and advances to the state semifinals for the second year in a row.
Grand’s Koi Cook and Cameron Taylor had each rushed for two touchdowns prior to the fourth quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, South Sevier quarterback Trevor Jones found receiver Avery Healey in the end zone for a touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt failed, however, leaving Grand ahead 27-12.
Grand went three-and-out on its next possession, punting the ball with just under nine minutes remaining. South Sevier then advanced the ball deep into Red Devil territory, eventually scoring on a five-yard touchdown run by Healey with just under six minutes remaining. With a successful two-point conversion run by Jones, the Rams closed the deficit to seven points, 27-20.
South Sevier then tried an onside kick and recovered the ball, setting up a drive that would take them as close as the Red Devil 15-yard line with 3:01 remaining. Grand’s defense stopped the Rams on fourth down and four, giving the Red Devils the ball again.
At that point in the game, Grand simply needed to get a couple of first downs and retain possession while running down the clock. However, the Red Devils suffered an untimely setback when Jacob Francis fumbled the ball away with 2:37 left, giving the Rams yet another opportunity to score from Red Devil territory.
“Again, they could have tied it up or won it,” said Wells. “But our defense held up and stopped them.”
On their final drive, South Sevier made it as close as the 8-yard line. On fourth down and five yards to go, the Rams tried a pass play that was broken up by Grand’s strong safety Ronnie Dolphin, giving the Red Devils the ball on downs once again with just over one minute to play.
By then, North Sevier was out of time outs, so Grand’s quarterback – Francis – took a knee twice and the game clock ran out, giving the Red Devils the victory.
“We were in control for most of the game, up until the end of the third quarter,” Wells said. “We just made some mistakes at the end, so we have some things we need to work on this week.”
Grand next plays the North Summit Braves in the 2A semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. The game starts at 11 a.m. The other 2A semifinal game will follow at 1:30 p.m., featuring Beaver vs. South Summit.
Three of the four teams have 9-1 records on the season, while North Summit is 8-2. The Braves’ only losses were a 21-7 non-region loss to Duchesne on Aug. 30, and a 10-0 loss to Millard at North Summit on Sept. 20. South Summit’s only loss of the season was a 26-24 defeat at the hands of North Summit on Oct. 11. Grand’s only loss of the year thus far was a 12-7 setback at Beaver on Sept. 20, and Beaver’s only blemish was a 37-6 loss at South Summit on Sept. 13.
Wells said that for the Red Devils to advance to the championship game, they’ll have to stop North Summit’s formidable running attack.
“Their kind of running game is totally different than what we are used to seeing,” he said. “They’ll be hard to stop.”
Last Friday’s game marked the return to action of Francis, who had broken his leg exactly six weeks earlier during the loss at Beaver. Although Francis didn’t score against the Rams, he played most of the game, primarily at wide receiver and quarterback on offense and at free safety on defense.
Wells said that running back Taylor, a senior, injured his hamstring during a tackle as he scored his second touchdown of the game against South Sevier and is not expected to play against North Summit this week. Taylor’s two TDs against South Sevier were on a 33-yard run in the first quarter and a one-yard run in the third quarter. Both of Cook’s touchdowns were a result of short runs in the second quarter. Cook also made an interception and a fumble recovery on defense.
Cook and Francis are expected to share quarterbacking duties against North Summit, Wells said.