The Red Devil offensive line paved the way for seniors Koi Cook and Jacob Francis to score five rushing touchdowns as the Red Devils defeated North Summit 34-13 on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 9 in Cedar City to advance to the UHSAA Utah State 2A Championship game against South Summit.
Grand stormed out of the gates, connecting on a long play-action pass from Francis to junior Tanner White on their first play after receiving the opening kickoff, followed by a long run from Cook to set himself up for a 12-yard run for his first score to put the Red Devils up 7-0 with 9:44 remaining in the first quarter.
After their defense forced the Braves into a three-and-out, the Red Devil offense picked up where it left off, going 73 yards in 12 plays, capped off by a 3-yard run Cook to extend Grand’s lead to 14-0 with 3:22 to go in the opening period.
The Braves turned the ball over on downs in their next drive and the Red Devils continued to move the ball at will, but Francis fumbled at the 6-yard line after a 7-yard run and North Summit recovered. Grand, however, forced another three-and-out, getting the ball back at the 31-yard line and covering the distance in five plays, the last of which was a 4-yard run by Cook, to go up 21-0 with 7:01to go before halftime. Cook lined up at quarterback for the latter two of his three touchdown runs, but Francis started at quarterback and played there most of the game.
After the Red Devils forced another three-and-out, Grand scored again 2:17 before the half on a 9-yard run by Francis. North Summit answered back as Trevor Hale squirted free for a 72-yard touchdown run, in which junior Koby Sobremesana chased him down the sideline and forced a fumble, but Hale recovered it in the end zone for the score. After a Cook fumble, the Braves tried to further cut the deficit before the half, but were thwarted when junior Ronnie Dolphin intercepted their fourth-down pass.
Red Devil football coach Dennis Wells said the Red Devils’ offensive game plan was to keep the Braves off balance.
“We mixed it up; started the game with a play-action pass,” he said. “We mixed it up with the our sweep/counter/quarterback keeper as well. Their defense didn’t know who was getting the ball from one play to the next.”
Grand ran the ball almost exclusively in the second half, only attempting two passes after the break as the third quarter saw no movement in the scoreboard. Francis added a 5-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter and Hale scored again for the Braves from 8-yards out with 7:55 to go in the fourth quarter for what turned out to be the Braves final offensive play as Grand didn’t relinquish the ball again, running out the rest of the clock to punch its ticket to Ogden.
Wells said the offensive-line play allowed the Red Devils to be successful in whatever they wanted to do offensively against the Braves.
“The offensive linemen were telling me ‘just run it coach; we’re blowing them off the line,” Wells said. “We only passed the ball eight times all day, just to keep them honest.”
Grand senior center and defensive tackle Austin Day said the Braves’ defense lined up in a way that benefited the Red Devils
“We just handled them and that’s what got our running game going,” he said.
The Red Devil defense also had its way with the Braves throughout most of the contest, Wells said.
“Our game plan was to stop the run,” Wells said. “Our defense is about gap control; one gap was uncovered and (Hale) squirted through it. You take away a couple of big plays and North Summit had just about 100 yards of total offense.
This appearance will be the Red Devils’ seventh in the state title game and the first since 2005, when they defeated San Juan 25-22 for their only state title. The Wildcats have been to the championship game 11 times, winning four, their most recent victory coming in 1988.
The Wildcats are coming off a 14-7 victory over Beaver in the other 2A semifinal on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 9; they have been the clear-cut favorite in 2A all season. South Summit and Grand share identical 10-1 records, each finishing second in region because of their only losses of the season.
“We’re kind of similar, except South Summit pitches it a little more and I think they have better athletes,” Wells said. “We’re going to have to fly the ball and maintain gap control.”
Day said the Red Devil defense must be prepared for deception against the Wildcats.
“With their offense, it’s going to be hard to find who has the ball. They’re deceptive and run a lot of misdirection.”
Wells said South Summit also boasts a better defense than the Red Devils encountered in the semifinals and Day said the key on both sides of the ball will be the line play.
“We’re going to have to control the line and let our running backs and linebackers do their jobs,” Day said.
“I’m really happy and excited; I can’t wait to play the game this weekend. We’re going to have to focus this week. It’s going to be a great game.”
The Red Devils and Wildcats are scheduled to battle for 2A supremacy at Stewart Stadium in Ogden on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 4 p.m.