After the Grand County High School football team convincingly claimed the lead in the first half, the North Summit Braves turned the tables in the second half, coming from behind in dominating second-half fashion to win 28-14 and advance to the state semifinals and end the Red Devils’ season.
After allowing the Braves to score on the opening drive, the Red Devils contained them the rest of the first half and went into halftime with a 14-6 lead, but the Braves claimed the momentum early in the third quarter, capitalizing on a big kick return to open the second half, scoring two plays later on a 48-yard run from Rand Pentz to pull to 14-12.
The Red Devils had a good kick return of their own, returning the ball to the Braves’ 25-yard line, but a penalty erased the big play. Two plays later, an errant snap from center sailed over Grand senior Dalton McElhaney’s head and was recovered by the Braves, giving them the ball four yards from pay dirt. Faced with 3rd-and-9 after a false start penalty, a seven-yard passing play set up a two-yard quarterback sneak on fourth down, giving North Summit a 19-4 lead less than four minutes into the half.
After McElhaney threw an interception on the following drive, the Red Devils got the ball back on an interception of their own by senior Joseph Shumway deep in Red Devil territory, but Grand couldn’t capitalize, going three and out and giving the Braves the ball back still in Grand territory.
The Red Devils forced a three and out as well, but the North Summit punt pinned them at the 1-yard line. After not gaining any yards in three plays, Shumway punted from the back of his own end zone and the ball rolled backwards to the 31-yard line. The Red Devils forced another punt, but were again pinned deep, this time at the 4-yard line.
Grand advanced the ball to the 10 before punting again. This time, the punt was blocked, giving the Braves the ball at the 8. Pentz broke free for a score on the following play, giving the Braves a 25-14 advantage. The Braves added a field goal a few minutes later for the final score of 28-14.
“The key to the whole second half was field position,” Grand football coach Dennis Wells said. “They kept us pinned deep in our own territory,” and the Red Devils couldn’t get anything going.
“They didn’t do anything different than what they did in the first half,” he said. “They got a big kick return, then the guy made a cut and we missed a couple tackles. We get a good return called back on a penalty, then a snap goes over our quarterbacks head, they’re up 19-14.”
Despite the 22-point second-half disparity, Wells said his defense played well in the second half.
“We were able to stop them, but they kept getting the ball back in our territory,” he said. “You can only play defense in your own territory for so long before you give up a score.”
Wells also said he was unsatisfied with the officiating in the game.
“Another key to the game was the officiating,” Wells said. “Another coach told me when you play up there, they get a homefield advantage from the officials. They were holding us on every play and getting away with it, even after we told the officials. It’s no excuse, field position was why we lost the game, but I’m sending it into the state. It’s ridiculous. It’s not the way football should be played.”
North Summit players began the theme of taking advantage of field position early in the game when they scored on their opening drive on a 12-yard pass from Braxten Northrup to Luke Keisel after the Red Devils went three-and-out to start the game.
Grand responded as McElhaney connected with Holyoak on a 20-yard touchdown pass to go up 7-6. Grand extended its lead to 14-6 midway through the second quarter on a two-yard run by McElhaney, who recovered a North Summit fumble forced by Secrest to set the Red Devils up at the 35-yard line.
Statistical leaders for Grand were McElhaney, whose 96 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries gave him a season total of 1,288 yards and 22 touchdowns, both near the top of the 2A leaderboard. Defensively, the Red Devils racked up impressive stats fighting with their backs against the wall to stay in the game as senior Seth Holyoak collected 14 tackles, giving him 134 for the season, which is second in 2A. Senior Brandon Secrest added three sacks, while junior Nolan Beeman also had a pair of sacks. Shumway grabbed his fourth interception of the season, which led the team.
The Red Devils finished with a 6-5 record, improving greatly upon their 2-8 record from 2014.
“I feel good about how far we’ve come from last year,” Wells said. “We’ve got a good upcoming eighth grade class and some good players coming back. It looks like we’ll finally have the numbers to play regular varsity football. Last season and the first two games this season we had so few players that we had sophomores and freshmen playing varsity when they’re not mature enough yet. It looks like next year we’ll be able to have older guys playing varsity with the younger guys gaining experience at the lower levels.”
Grand’s season ends with 28-14 quarterfinal loss
“The key to the whole second half was field position. They kept us pinned deep in our own territory.”