The Moab community came out in droves to the inaugural Red and White Game, an inter-squad scrimmage with no officials or scoring, on Saturday, Aug. 17 at Grand County High School, to support the Red Devils as they prepare for the upcoming season.
But more importantly, the community came to support Merry Woodruff, the mother of 15-year-old Sam Woodruff, a fallen team member who died on Saturday, Aug. 10.
Sam Woodruff’s untimely passing sent shock waves through the community. A kind, courteous and funny kid by all accounts, who wanted nothing more in life than to play for the Red Devils, always looked forward to football practice and came home smiling. He was determined to be an important member of the Red Devil football team, said his mother Merry Woodruff.
“He woke up at 4 a.m., made me coffee, brought it to me at 4:30 and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to do a good job; I’m going to be good for them.”
Merry Woodruff said Sam Woodruff had “the best day he ever had in his life” at practice the morning of his death.
“He was excited because he achieved his goals that day,” Sam Woodruff’s adoptive grandmother Sandy Roedel said. “He was above and beyond excited about his accomplishment.”
The football team, which spent much of the off-season bonding as a family to come closer for the upcoming season, dedicated the season to their fallen brother and have been there to help in every step of the burial process, acting as pallbearers for the funeral, raising money during the Red and White Game to help cover costs and even, with the permission of the Grand County Council and Cemetery District, cleaning the cemetery the morning of Saturday, Aug. 17 to cover the cost of the burial plot.
For their efforts, Roedel made them all a breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy, pancakes, eggs and fruit.
Merry Woodruff said she is coping with her son’s death “one moment at a time.”
“I’m just amazed and awestruck at the love and support the community has given Sandy and me in our time of loss,” she said.
Fellow Red Devil football player, senior Layton Call, said Sam’s death gave the football team another reason another reason to fight.
“We now have a reason more than just the game to push forward toward a championship,” he said. “We have him pushing us.”
Call, who performed Sam Woodruff’s baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said when he first met Sam Woodruff, he didn’t know what to expect, but as he got to know him, he came to love him as a brother.
“I’m glad I was the one he chose to do his baptism,” Call said. “I really did love Sam as a brother. He did everything with our family. He was an older brother to my little brother. I’m going to really miss him this year, but I know he’s here.”
Red Devil football coach Dennis Wells said the effort Sam Woodruff put in to being part of the team served as an inspiration to the other players.
“Sam was here every day,” he said. “He got a lot stronger and was putting himself in position to get more playing time. He was inspiration because he was here every day, setting an example.”
Red Devil seniors David Bentley and Austin Day said Sam Woodruff made the weight room into his second home.
“He was in the weight room two hours before anyone else,” they said. “He lived in there.”
“He was solely dedicated to football,” Day said. “It was his life.”
Wells said the football team is excited for opportunity to hit someone besides each other when it begins the season Friday, Aug. 23 at 7 p.m., against Carbon.
“It was kind of tough to call offense with half of my varsity on one side and half on the other, but I liked the intensity,” Wells said of the football team’s performance at the Red-White Game. “It’ll be fun to hit someone besides each other.”
“Everything that happened with Sam has given us the extra boost to get to the top,” Bentley said. “It’s all about him, now.”