The Red Devils’ youth, inexperience, size and depth were exposed on Friday, Aug. 22 in Price as Grand County lost its opening game of the season, 30-12, to the Carbon Dinos, a 3A team that Grand had soundly beaten 48-7 in 2013 and 42-0 in 2012. It rained heavily at moments during the game, which was suspended midway through the fourth quarter because of lightning.
The Dinos appear to be a much better team thanks to a new coaching staff, led by former BYU standout defensive end Jan Jorgensen. Jorgensen, whose staff boasts two retired Carbon head coaches (his father Jeff Jorgensen and Troy Moynier) as well as former Grand County High School assistant principal and assistant football coach John Huitt, helped the Dinos snap a 17-game losing streak and give the fans and players in Price hope and excitement.
The Red Devils outgained the Dinos on offense 227-181, but couldn’t break through for the big play, something the Dinos were able to do, scoring on one long pass, setting up a score with another, and scoring defensively via an interception returned for a touchdown, as well as a safety. Grand County football coach Dennis Wells said the big plays made the difference in the game.
“We made too many mistakes and they took advantage,” he said. “ We had more yards than they did, but it didn’t matter because we had three turnovers and no big plays.”
The Red Devils, who never led during the game, threatened to jump ahead several times in the second and third quarters before mishaps, such as penalties and bad snaps from the center to the quarterback, halted Grand’s offense.
The Dinos got on the board first, when at the 7:25 mark in the first quarter, quarterback Jarod Lessar connected with Garrett Blanc for a 54-yard scamper to go up 7-0.
The Red Devils responded with a 16-play drive that spanned nearly the rest of the quarter, culminating in a 3-yard touchdown run from senior quarterback Tanner White. The point-after was no good, however, leaving Grand trailing 7-6.
The Red Devils and Dinos kept each other off the scoreboard for most of the second quarter before Blanc intercepted a pass from White that bounced off the hands of fellow senior Ronnie Dolphin, and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown to put Carbon up 14-6 right before halftime.
The Dinos extended their lead to 21-6 after the opening drive of the second half, on the strength of a 53-yard screen pass from Lessar to Blanc, which led to a 3-yard touchdown run from Lessar.
Dolphin nearly provided the spark Grand was looking for, returning the ensuing kickoff up the middle to the Red Devil 37-yard line before slipping to the ground. The Red Devils went three plays and out on the ensuing drive, and when they got the ball back near the end of the third quarter, both White and Dolphin got banged up and Wells called on sophomore Nolan Beeman and junior Seth Holyoak to pick up the slack. Holyoak chipped in with a 7-yard run and Beeman had runs of 6 yards and 7 yards, but penalties hampered Grand’s ability to move the ball and Beeman was stopped short on a fourth-and-1 play.
“We only had 32 players dress for this game,” Wells said, adding that it took its toll on White and Dolphin. “We’re really thin; don’t have the same depth we had last year.”
White returned to quarterback and scrambled for 29 yards to start Grand’s next drive, before throwing an incomplete pass on first down, slipping to the ground for a 2-yard loss on second down and throwing a complete pass to junior tight end Joshua Stalpes on third down. Stalpes was stopped short and a holding penalty against Grand was declined, setting up Grand for a fourth-and-long play when lightning forced the officials to suspend the game with 7:11 to go in regulation.
When play resumed more than 30 minutes later, the Red Devils scored on their fourth-down play on a pass over the middle from White to Stalpes, but the two-point conversion failed, as did the ensuing onside kick, leaving Grand down 21-12 and defending against the Dinos and the clock.
The Red Devils got the ball back deep in their own territory thanks to strong punt coverage from Carbon, and White was sacked for a safety, extending the Dino advantage to 23-12. The Red Devils found themselves pinned deep in their own territory again and fought to move the ball before a controversial fumble call again gave the Dinos control of the ball. White passed the ball to Dolphin over the middle, who appeared to bobble the ball, never having control of it before being tackled, but the official called a complete pass and a fumble, rather than an incomplete pass.
Lessar scored on a 4-yard run shortly thereafter to ice the game for the Dinos at 30-12.
White said the scoreboard didn’t reflect the way the Red Devils played, believing that Grand hung tough with the much bigger (in both quantity and physical size) Dinos squad, aside from a couple of missed assignments that led to big plays.
“For our first game, we played very well,” he said. “We’re a very young team with a lot of new kids in new positions. The more experience we get, the better we’re going to be.”
White said a key for the younger players is to calm down and believe in themselves.
“I can say from experience that in your first year playing varsity, things go very fast,” he said. “My advice to the younger guys is slow down the game so you can see the bigger picture and get rid of that tunnel vision.”
The Red Devils play at home against Rifle, Colo., on Friday, Aug. 29. The Bears beat Moffat County 62-7 on Friday, Aug. 22, scoring 41 points in the first quarter. They enter the season ranked No. 4 in Colorado’s 3A division after losing 34-31 in the first round of the 2013 state playoffs to eventual champion Coronado.
The Red Devils were without senior Koby Sobremesana, who is set to return to action when Grand travels to North Sevier on Friday, Sept. 5, Wells said.
“I still like our chances of improving and coming on strong as the season goes along,” Wells said. “They’re fighting out there, just gotta get back in shape. The biggest thing for us is region play, which begins next week, so we’re not going to push guys too hard this week. We can’t afford to risk anyone getting hurt before region.”
White said he is excited to play in front of the home crowd.
“It’s an honor to put on that jersey and go out on that homefield,” he said.
Dinos capitalize on Grand turnovers, come away with win
“For our first game, we played very well. We’re a very young team with a lot of new kids in new positions. The more experience we get, the better we’re going to be.”
When: Friday, Aug. 29, 7 p.m.
Where: Grand County High School, 608 S. 400 East.