Red Devil senior Ronnie Dolphin (second from left) takes the snap as junior Dalton McElhaney (foreground) goes in motion across the formation and senior Tanner White (far left) runs up field during Grand's 48-8 loss in its homecoming game to Summit Academy on Friday, Oct. 3 [Photo by Tim Chappell / Moab Sun News]

The Grand County football team lost its homecoming game versus the Summit Academy Bears 48-8 on Friday, Oct. 3 in Moab, falling to 1-6 on the season with two games to play.

The Red Devils quickly found themselves down 14-0 after turnovers on their first two possessions were returned for scores, the first of which was a 70-yard interception return score by Dallas Wheadon, who jumped in front of a pass thrown by Grand senior Ronnie Dolphin that was intended for a receiver on an out route, and the second an 18-yard fumble return score by Jake Kartchner, who scooped up the ball after it was snapped over Dolphin’s head.

The Red Devils and Bears kept each other off the scoreboard for the next 13 minutes of game time before Bear quarterback Hagan Hines found wide receiver Steven Harp for a 60-yard scoring pass that sailed over the outstretched fingertips of Grand junior Joseph Shumway, putting the Bears up 21-0.

After the Red Devils turned the ball over, they forced a punt before themselves being forced to punt. Senior Tanner White booted a gem from the back of his own end zone that sailed over the returners head well past midfield, but the returner picked it up and almost returned it for a score. A penalty flag, however, negated the big return and gave the Bears the ball at midfield. Not to be deterred, they scored on their first play, a 50-yard pass from Hines to Harp, to go up 28-0.

“We gave them 14 points with turnovers before their offense even touched the ball,” Grand County football coach Dennis Wells said. “On their other two scores, Our defensive backs just didn’t stay behind their guys.”

The Bears activated the mercy rule after the opening drive of the second half, benefiting from a kickoff out of bounds to get the ball at their own 35. Grand junior Brendan Bennett appeared to have an interception on the second play of the drive, but the officials ruled that the ball hit the ground. After a quarterback scramble and a 28-yard pass, Summit Academy’s Joe Denos finished the drive off with a 15-yard touchdown run, putting the Bears up 35-0.

On the ensuing drive, with Dolphin sitting out because of an ankle injury suffered late in the first half, the Red Devils turned to junior Dalton McElhaney at quarterback, and he led the Red Devils down the field on a drive spanning the remainder of the third quarter, finishing the drive early in the fourth with a 10-yard touchdown pass to White. McElhaney rushed in from two yards out for the two-point conversion for a score of 35-8.

After entering summer camp as the Red Devils’ starting quarterback, McElhaney broke his arm in early August and was seeing his first action of the season. White, Grand’s starting quarterback in McElhaney’s absence, had a thumb injury to his throwing hand, which caused the Red Devils to turn to McElhaney following Dolphin’s injury.

“We didn’t have Dalton practice at quarterback at all during the week because we didn’t plan to have him play quarterback,” Wells said. “He didn’t know all of the plays so we had to have Tanner tell him what to do. He looked really good in the pocket, though, and he was accurate with his throws.”

Following the score, Grand essentially waved the white flag, pulling most of their starters to avoid any more injuries, which allowed Summit Academy to tack on two more touchdowns for a final score of 48-8.

“We started pulling guys out,” Wells said. “They still had big No. 10 (Hines, a senior who is listed at 6’0” and 225 pounds, but looks taller) running the football), and it wasn’t a region game. We need guys healthy for Parowan and San Juan; didn’t want to get anyone hurt.”

Dolphin said that despite the outcome, he was proud of the way the team continued to play hard.

“We kept fighting and fighting,” he said. “But one bad thing is that after every touchdown they scored, I saw the guys’ heads go down a little further.”

Wells said Dolphin is a good leader, and the team missed his presence in the second half.

“The team feeds off of Ronnie when he’s out there hitting people,” Wells said. “You could see it in the second half when he wasn’t in there; the team was a little down.”

Wells said getting healthy will be key for Grand to win its final two regular season games and have a shot at postseason play. The top two teams in each region get byes into the quarterfinals, which are scheduled to take place Saturday, Nov. 1, while the third-through-sixth ranked teams battle it out in play-in games on Friday, Oct. 24. The Red Devils are currently fifth in 2A south with a 1-3 region record, half a game ahead of opponent Parowan, which is 1-4 in region play.

“I’ll be disappointed if we don’t beat Parowan,” Wells said. “We’ve got to get players back healthy and shore up our offensive line; we don’t have too many choices. We’re outmanned right now. If we can get healthy, we can hang with these teams.”

Summit Academy defeats Red Devils 48-8

We’ve got to get players back healthy and shore up our offensive line; we don’t have too many choices. We’re outmanned right now. If we can get healthy, we can hang with these teams.