Senior quarterback Jacob Francis passed for three touchdowns and rushed for three more as the Red Devils earned their second consecutive victory over a 3A opponent and avenged a lopsided 42-7 defeat from 2012, beating Emery 48-21 on Friday, Aug. 30 in Moab.
The Red Devils, Ranked No. 3 in 2A by the Deseret News for the second straight week after beginning the season No. 4, used a similar formula to week-one victory over Carbon in their week-two triumph, setting an aggressive tone and taking what the defense gives them on offense and playing suffocating defense to mount a commanding lead early. The Red Devil starting offense scored touchdowns on each of its seven drives on the field and the defense didn’t allow a first down until late in the second quarter.
“We’ve got threats everywhere,” Red Devil football coach Dennis Wells said. “Give our linemen a lot of credit. They dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. We ran whatever we wanted… we still haven’t punted through two games.”
After kicking the ball to the Spartans to begin the game, the Red Devil defense forced a three-and-out and after a 21-yard punt return by senior Cameron Taylor and a 28-yard run by junior Tanner White put them within seven yards of the end zone, Grand sputtered for three plays before calling a fake field goal on fourth down. Francis connected with senior Kiel Schraft for a 5-yard touchdown pass on the play, putting the Red Devils up 7-0 after the PAT.
Grand forced another three-and-out and begain its next drive with good field position, finding the end zone on a 14-yard pass from Francis to junior Ronnie Dolphin to cap off a 10-play, 33-yard drive and extend its lead to 14-0.
After senior Koi Cook sacked Emery quarterback Tai Justice to put an exclamation point on another three-and-out, the Red Devils embarked on a 12-play, 64-yard drive which culminated in an 18-yard touchdown run from Francis, who pin-balled his way through the Emery defense before sprinting down the right sideline for the score. Francis missed the point after and the Red Devils settled for a 20-0 advantage.
On the first play of the drive, senior offensive and defensive linemen Trae Downard was injured, lying motionless on the ground for several minutes. After EMTs cut away his uniform and attended to him, he was ambulanced from the field. He escaped major and permanent harm, as the injury was a pinched nerve and as of Saturday he was walking around fine and hopes to play again, his father Joe Downard said.
Serious injuries sometimes deflate the team of the injured player and stifle their momentum, but the Red Devils used it as fuel and motivation to play harder, fellow senior offensive and defensive lineman Austin Day said.
“We thought about (Downard’s injury) the rest of the night,” Day said. “We played for him and Sam tonight.”
The Red Devils and Spartans traded touchdown drives to go into halftime 27-7 in Grand’s favor. Emery mustered its first significant offense, rattling off a chain of medium runs to march the ball down the field for their first score on an 8-yard run by senior Marco Mota with 2:05 remaining in the half, giving the Red Devils a decision to make – were they going to answer back or head to the lockers content with a 13-point lead? They chose the former, playing to win rather than playing not to lose, scoring in 12 seconds on only one play, a 52-yard pass from Francis to Cook to go up 27-7.
The Red Devils extended their lead in the first drive of the second half. After five medium-length runs and an encroachment penalty gave them 2nd-and-5 from the Emery 35, Francis threw two incomplete passes before the Red Devils went for it on fourth down and Francis broke free for a 35-yard touchdown run. White connected with sophomore Dalton McElhaney on a pass for the two-point conversion, putting Grand up 35-7.
The next drive, Emery continued to run the ball well against the Grand defense and Mota scored on a 13-yard run. Grand, however, responded again as two long runs by Cook highlighted a drive that culminated in a Francis 12-yard touchdown run, his third rushing score of the game, putting the Red Devils up 42-14.
After stopping Emery short on a fourth-down pass, The Red Devils pounded the ball down the field with long runs from Taylor and Francis, leading to Taylor scoring from one yard out to put the Red Devils up 48-14. An errant snap on the PAT led to an impromtu incomplete pass, leaving Grand one point short of a continously running clock.
The Red Devils put their reserves in to finish the game from there and each team turned the ball over on downs before Emery senior Ryan Cox scored on a 53-yard run late in the game to round out the final score at 48-21.
Francis finished with 164 yards rushing on 18 carries and completed 6-of-13 passes for 108 yards. Cook also posted more than 100 yards of offensive, rushing 10 times for 85 yards and catching one pass for 52 yards. Defensively, Cook and senior lineman Edgar Gomez led the Red Devils with 13 tackles apiece.
The Spartans racked up 258 rushing yards despite being thoroughly shut down most of the first half, led by Cox’s 172 yards on 16 carries. However, they only competed 2-of-8 passes for 19 yards.
The Red Devil game plan was to take away the sideline, Day said.
“We wanted to shut down the sweep; we couldn’t let them get the edge,” he said. “We let them get to the edge on their scoring drives and they took advantage.”
Day said the Red Devil seniors will try to limit the effect of distractions this week as they head into their homecoming game and region opener against North Sevier on Friday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. The Wolves come into the game 0-2 after losses to American Leadership in week one and Gunnison in week two.
“We’re going to try and keep everyone focused,” he said. “We’ve got to stay intense – no lazy practices.”
Wells said homecoming week is his least favorite week of the year as a football coach.
“The distraction on Friday is the worst,” he said. “You’ve got the assembly, then the parade, then you have to try and refocus yourself to play a football game.”