After one of their most successful regular seasons in recent memory, the Red Devils play host to the Millard Eagles in the state 2A quarterfinals at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26, and much of the credit for getting to this point belongs to the offensive and defensive lines.
Grand County has averaged more than 200 yards rushing per game this season, thanks in large part to the blocking. Offensive line starters include: senior Austin Day at center, senior Keagn Richardson and junior David Bentley at guards and senior Stefan Secrest and junior Edgar Gomez at tackles.
Red Devil assistant coach Joe Day said a key reason for the unit’s success is their pride. In past years, players had the mindset that they’re “just linemen,” but this year they’ve embraced the role and realized its importance, despite the lack of media recognition.
“At the beginning of the year we talked to the linemen about their importance,” Joe Day said. “If they don’t perform, the team doesn’t perform. They’re the foundation and if there’s a crack in the foundation, the whole team falls apart.”
Bentley said communication along the line is much better this year than it has been before.
“We talk a lot more,” he said. “We get to the line and shoutout what we’re seeing and if we need to adjust.”
Joe Day said this year’s linemen are some of the smartest guys on the team, which has been critical to the Red Devils’ ability to make adjustments on the fly.
“They understand football and understand the schemes,” he said. “…They come off the sideline and tell us what’s happening in the game. That’s where some of our second-half comebacks have come from. Teams don’t always have that. You bring a player out and ask them what’s going on and they say ‘I don’t know.’”
Austin Day said the Red Devils are a family both on the field and in the classroom.
“We back each other up,” he said. “We help each other on the field. We help each other in our classes. We even tutor if we need to.”
Gomez said the Red Devils who play the more glamorous positions are quick to deflect the credit for their stats to the play in the trenches, a trait Joe Day said wasn’t present in the state of Washington, where he and Austin Day moved to Moab from.
“We have a good team and they give us credit,” Gomez said of the Red Devil “skill players.” “We play as a family.”
The Day and Gomez families are relatively new additions to the Red Devil family as Gomez joined the Red Devils in 2011 after moving from Mexico in 7th grade, and his brother Carlos Gomez joined the Red Devils this year along with Joe and Austin Day.
Gomez said he didn’t know anything about football when he decided to play
“I just saw kids having fun playing and I wanted to try,” he said. “I love this sport.”
Austin Day said it was a difficult transition in the beginning of the season, but he now feels like part of the family.
Winning the battle of the line of scrimmage will be key in the Red Devils’ matchup against the Eagles, who also utilize a run-heavy offense. Millard finished the regular season 7-2, with its two losses coming against Manti and South Summit, the teams the Eagles finished behind in the 2A North standings.
The Eagles were even more prolific than Grand County running the ball, averaging 270 yards per game. Senior Jesse Rhodes, who scored three touchdowns against South Sevier in Millard’s 55-18 first-round victory on Thursday, Oct. 18, has rushed for 1477 yards and 22 touchdowns, averaging nearly 11 yards per carry.
“Our coaches told us to show up and play hard or else it’s going to be a long night,” Austin Day said. “We have to play like it’s our last game or it will be… and I want the seniors to go out on top this year.”
Bentley said this season has restored a winning attitude to the Red Devils after a disappointing 2011.
“Going through a season like last year was depressing,” he said. “We weren’t as intense or prepared. Morale is definitely better and we’re a lot more excited to play.”
Edgar Gomez said this game will be the Red Devils’ toughest game of the season.
“We’ve got to bring it on, execute, play our best game and we can beat ’em,” he said.