The South Summit Wildcats shell-shocked the Red Devils, forcing two quick turnovers and turning them into touchdowns on their way to a 42-8 victory in the 2013 Utah State 2A Championship game on Saturday, Nov. 16 in Ogden, sending Grand County home with the second-place trophy.
After kicking the ball off to begin the game, the Wildcats intercepted a pass from Red Devil senior Jacob Francis on Grand’s third offensive play and wasted no time capitalizing, scoring three plays later on an 18-yard run by Carson Freestone. Francis fumbled the ball three plays later and South Summit recovered, scoring again seven plays later on a 12-yard run by Colby Averett.
Grand advanced the ball to the 32-yard line on their next drive before turning the ball over on downs, but they still had no answer for the Wildcat offense, which extended its lead to 21-0 before the end of the first quarter on a 5-yard run from Freestone.
Red Devil football coach Dennis Wells and senior lineman David Bentley said the Wildcats took the wind out of Grand’s sails with their early onslaught.
“I really thought we could win it,” Bentley said. “We came in with the right mentality, but a couple of mistakes brought us down. We couldn’t keep our heads up.”
Wells said overconfidence may have crept up on the Red Devils on Saturday.
“South Summit brought it like we knew they would,” Wells said. “Give them a lot of credit. They showed up ready to play. I thought we were ready; we had a great week of practice. But, to be honest, I think we were overconfident.”
South Summit scored twice more in the second quarter, on a 4-yard run by Averett and a 2-yard run by Ty Jones, to enter the second half with a 35-0 lead.
Wells said the Red Devil defense got blown off the ball by South Summit and didn’t close the gaps effectively.
“We had breakdowns in gap control,” he said. “Against a good team like that, that’ll kill you.”
Freestone scored his third rushing touchdown late in the third quarter, this time from 5 yards out, and Grand scored with 31 seconds remaining in the game on a 3-yard run by senior Koi Cook, followed by a two-point conversion pass from Francis to senior Kiel Schraft to avoid the shutout.
The Red Devils at times were able to move the ball, but couldn’t sustain success as the Wildcat defense forced four timely turnovers. Francis finished with 18 rushes for 68 yards and a lost fumble, while also completing 7-of-17 passes for 101 yards and three interceptions. Cook carried the ball eight times for 28 yards and caught two passes for 43 yards.
Defensively, senior Edgar Gomez led Grand with 12 tackles and fellow senior Layton Call added 10 stops for the Red Devils.
This was the Red Devils’ seventh trip to the state championship game in their 93-year history of playing football, winning the title only once in 2005. Although they had to settle for the second-place trophy for a sixth time, the Red Devils still had a season to be proud of, achieving 10 wins and scoring the most points in a season in school history, Wells said. They dedicated the season to the memory of sophomore Sam Woodruff, who died unexpectedly on Aug. 10, shortly before the beginning of the season.
“(Sam) was glad to be on this team,” said senior Matt Bridenbaker, one of Woodruff’s closest friends on the squad. “I think he’s proud of us right now that we made it this far.”
Wells said Woodruff’s work ethic and attitude rubbed off on the Red Devils throughout the season.
“These guys rallied,” he said. “It could’ve have easily gone the other way, but they didn’t let that happen.”
“These are some great kids. I hate to see it end like this. These guys are going to go onto some great things in life.”
Wells said the prognosis for the Red Devils is good going forward as he expects to have a competitive team with a decent line returning for 2014. The Red Devils are also hopeful because of the promising string of classes coming up through elementary and middle school. He said he hopes the appearance in the state title game will encourage more students to join the team, noting that this year’s junior class only had nine players return out of 17 who played as sophomores. Wells’ goal is to 15-to-20 students on the team from each class.
Bentley and Francis both said hitting the weights and avoiding distractions are what future Red Devils must do to be successful.
“My one regret is not hitting the weights hard enough, every second I could,” Francis told the team in the locker room following the game. “Don’t have the same regret I did. The weights really do pay off.”