Grand used a balanced offensive attack to overpower the Cowboys, with quarterback Jacob Francis leading the way with 93 rushing yards on 18 carries, and one rushing touchdown, while running back Koi Cook added 83 yards on 17 carries, scoring two TDs. Fellow running back Cameron Taylor added 71 yards on 12 carries, and also scored a defensive touchdown when he scooped up a Kanab fumble in the second quarter and ran it in 32 yards for the score. Taylor’s score put the Red Devils ahead 21-17, a lead that they wouldn’t again relinquish.
In addition, Francis completed 7-of-13 passes for 133 yards and one passing touchdown.
Grand also put the defensive stops on the Cowboys, keeping them scoreless in the second half and holding them to just six total rushing yards for the game. Aaron Lewis and Layton Call each snagged a pass interception for the Red Devils.
“Even though we fell behind, we got the lead right back both times,” said GCHS head coach Dennis Wells. “In the second half, we just kept at them and were able to build a bigger lead.”
Francis credited the entire team for taking back control after committing errors on the field.
“We knew that when we gave up those big plays, that we just needed to minimize our mistakes and we would be fine,” Francis said.
Assistant coach Joe Day said he issued a challenge to the Red Devil squad prior to the game, telling them they could beat Kanab if they held the offensive and defensive lines.
“I told them that if they would dominate the line of scrimmage, we would win,” Day said. “I challenged them and they rose to the occasion. Everything we’ve asked these kids to do, they’ve done, and then they’ve done extra.”
Francis said the offensive and defensive lines made the difference in the game for Grand.
“Austin (Day), Edgar (Gomez), David (Bentley), Keegn (Richardson), and Stefan (Secrest) all had an amazing game,” Francis said. “And they are the reason that we won.”
The evening didn’t start out well for Grand, as the Red Devils fumbled the ball away on the first play of the game. Kanab then advanced deep inside Grand territory, only to lose the ball on a fumble of their own inside the 5-yard line.
On Grand’s ensuing possession, Francis threw a long pass to receiver Preston Walston, who caught the ball over the defender’s outstretched arms, then ran it 63 yards for touchdown, putting the Red Devils ahead 6-0. However, the extra-point attempt was botched, with Francis scrambling to recover from a bad hike and get off a pass, only to have the play whistled dead by the game referees.
Kanab punted on its next possession, giving Grand the ball back at midfield. The Red Devils advanced to within the 1-yard line, barely missing a touchdown twice before incurring a 5-yard offside penalty. Grand then attempted a pass on third-and-goal, but Francis’ throw was picked off by Kanab’s Brandon Nielsen at the 1-yard line. Nielson ran the ball back 99 yards for a touchdown. Brandon Jensen’s extra-point kick was good, putting Kanab ahead 7-6 with 1:06 left in the first period.
After receiving the ensuing kickoff, Grand marched the length of the field in less than a minute, thanks to a couple of long runs by Francis and one by Cook. Francis capped off the drive with a 5-yard TD run with 5.8 seconds left in the first period, and he also ran in the two-point conversion attempt, putting the Red Devils ahead 14-7.
On their first possession of the second quarter, Kanab advanced deep inside Grand territory but had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Jensen, making the score 14-10 for Grand.
After Grand was forced to punt on its next possession, Kanab managed to strike again, this time on a 74-yard pass from Jensen to Merrill Terry. Jensen made the extra-point kick again, putting Kanab ahead 17-14 with 5:18 left in the second period.
Following another punt by Grand, Kanab advanced the ball to midfield, but fumbled it away on a bad hike, leading to Taylor’s 32-yard fumble recovery touchdown, which was followed by a successful extra-point kick by Francis. That gave Grand the lead for good with 2:54 remaining in the first half. The score stayed at 21-17 until halftime.
In the first possession of the third period, Kanab advanced the ball as far as Grand’s 5-yard line, but fumbled the ball away yet again. Taking over deep inside their own territory, the Red Devils narrowly avoided a safety before eventually punting the ball to midfield.
Kanab then advanced the ball to Grand’s 28-yard line, but a pass interception by Call gave the Red Devils control again. Grand took the ball the length of the field, eventually scoring on a 1-yard run by Cook. The conversion pass attempt failed, making the score Grand 27, Kanab 17.
The only score of the fourth quarter was a 5-yard TD run by Cook with 5:35 left in the game. Francis’ kick was good, making the score 34-17. After Kanab’s uneventful last possession, the Red Devils ran out the clock to end the game.
This coming Friday, Sept. 7, the Red Devils (now 2-1 overall, 1-0 in region play) will play again at home, facing the San Juan Broncos (3-0, 1-0), winners of 33 of their last 34 games, including 2A state football championships in 2009 and 2010.
“They’re going to be tough challenge,” said Wells of the Broncos. “They’re ranked in the top two in the state, right up there with Manti. We’re just going to have to make better tackles and do a better job of protecting the ball carrier.”
He said the Red Devils will have to rise to the occasion if they want to defeat San Juan.
“We’ve just got to show up to play and keep improving each week,” he said.