Red Devil seniors Koi Cook and Cameron Taylor each scored two touchdowns and the Red Devils withstood a frantic fourth quarter from the South Sevier Rams to win their quarterfinal game 27-20 on Friday, Nov. 1 in Moab. They will play against 2A North Champion North Summit in the semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 11 a.m., at Eccles Coliseum in Cedar City.
The Red Devils went up 27-6 on a 1-yard run from Taylor late in the third quarter, his second score of the game, to head into the fourth with a commanding three-score lead, but the Rams answered quickly with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Jones to Avery Healey. The Red Devils stopped their two-point conversion attempt to maintain a 27-12 lead.
After a Red Devil punt, Jones continued evading sack attempts by the Red Devil defense, as he had done throughout the contest, to find open receivers for big plays in the passing game, leading to a 5-yard touchdown run from Healey. Jones took the snap and sprinted to the front-left pylon for the two-point conversion to pull the Rams within 7 at 27-20. The Rams recovered an onside kick the next play, but the Red Devils held them off the board when senior Chase Holyoak batted down a Jones pass on fourth-and-2, giving the Red Devils the ball back with three minutes remaining.
The Red Devils faced a third-and-1 on their next drive as they tried to run the rest of the clock out, when senior Jacob Francis fumbled the ball while fighting for extra yardage after he had already converted the first down. The Rams advanced to the 8-yard line, but junior Ronnie Dolphin batted down a pass in the end zone on fourth down to preserve the victory.
Red Devil football coach Dennis Wells said it was nerve-wracking down the stretch for the Red Devils.
“It was frustrating to have the game in control 27-6 and have them come back like that,” he said. “We got comfortable with our lead and we let up. They had us on the ropes.”
Grand coaches praised the elusiveness Jones displayed in the face of Red Devil pressure, scurrying away from numerous near-sacks throughout the contest to find receivers.
“He’s sure-footed, fast and athletic,” Red Devil assistant coach Joe Day said. “He moved around well.”
Wells said the Red Devils also had some confusion in their assignments at times and struggled to cover Healey out of the backfield.
The Rams took the opening kickoff and marched to the 5-yard line with a balanced attack of run and pass before missing a field goal, allowing the Red Devils to score the game’s first points on a 33-yard run from Taylor, who finished with 88 yards on 11 carries. Cook, who finished with 178 yards on 23 carries, set up the score with a 43-yard scamper on the Red Devils’ first offensive play. Junior Koby Sobremesana missed the extra point, giving the Red Devils a 6-0 lead.
The game went the way of defense for about the next quarter as Cook recovered a fumble to end South Sevier’s next drive and the Red Devils and Rams traded punts until Jones found tight end Josh Howell from 27 yards out and the Rams missed the extra point to tie the game at 6-6.
The Red Devils responded with a 10-play, 68-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 2-yard run from Cook, who intercepted intercepted a pass from Jones on the next drive and scored again right before halftime on a 7-yard run to put grand up 20-6. Red Devil sophomore Joseph Shumway recovered what looked like a squib/onside kick hybrid from Sobremesana, but the Red Devils couldn’t connect on two long pass attempts that followed and settled for the 14-point halftime advantage.
The Red Devils controlled the ball most of the third quarter, although they only managed to score 7 points. They marched the opening drive of the second half to the 22-yard line before turning the ball over on downs, then turned the ball over on downs again after Sobremesana recovered a fumble to reclaim possession for the Grand offense. The Red Devils forced a three-and-out before finally breaking through again for Taylor’s second score.
Defensively, Cook led the way with 18 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery, senior Edgar Gomez had eight tackles and Dolphin added seven.
Wells gave credit to the defense for stepping up when it had to late in the game.
“It’s huge for our defense to get two goal-line stops in four minutes,” said Francis, who played most of the game on both offense and defense after missing the Red Devils’ previous four games with a broken leg.
The Red Devils now must refocus and regroup for the semifinal match with North Summit, who defeated Gunnison 32-20 in the quarterfinals on Saturday, Nov. 2 and upset favored South Summit 26-24 on Oct. 11.
Wells and the rest of the coaching staff said although they won the game, it feels like they lost, which may serve as a wake-up call for the Red Devils.
“Now you can focus,” Day said. “A game like this should keep us from getting overconfident.”
Cook and Francis said the Red Devils said the Red Devils must begin the game with more intensity and be more disciplined.
“Know who you have on defense and block on offense,” they said. “We’ve got to come out fired up.”