The Grand County Red Devils football team defeated Gunnison 63-21 on Thursday, Oct. 20, at Gunnison in the first round of the UHSAA Utah State 2A Football Championship, earning a rematch versus powerhouse San Juan in the quarterfinals.
Junior Brayden Schultz carried the ball 25 times for 200 yards and four touchdowns, and also passed for a pair of touchdowns. Schultz, who coach Dennis Wells says is the fastest player on the team, transitioned from wide receiver to quarterback in the middle of the season in order for Grand to take advantage of his athleticism offensively.
“Brayden did a good job running the offense,” Wells said. “This offense needs a good, strong, fast runner at quarterback in order to be successful. We thought we were going to have that all season with Josh Jones, but because of injuries we only got half a game out of him. Brayden has stepped in and done a good job.”
Senior Taylor Horton, who played quarterback most of the season before the switch, caught four passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. Junior Dakota Johnson caught the other touchdown thrown by Schultz, and rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown.
The Red Devils found themselves down 14-8 in the first quarter after marching down the field after receiving the opening kickoff, only to fumble and have it returned for a touchdown. After Grand responded to go up 8-7, the Bulldogs had their only sustained offensive drive of the game, helped along by a fortunate bounce, to reclaim the lead.
“We had the ball almost intercepted,” Wells said. But the ball deflected off a Grand defender and was caught for a first down, extending the drive, which ended in a score.
Grand found the gas pedal in the second quarter, outscoring the Bulldogs 22-0 to head into halftime up 30-14. Each team scored a touchdown in the third quarter for a score of 37-21. Gunnison’s score came via kickoff return, leaving them with only one offensive touchdown in the game.
“We showed up ready to play,” Wells said. “I was worried we’d have a letdown after we played Beaver and San Juan, both really good, senior-laden teams, but we came out fired up and got the win to play another week of football.”
The Red Devils outscored Gunnison in the final frame 26-0. Their final score came on a 60-yard touchdown run from autistic junior Lucas Crain.
“There was an official at the game that I know really well, and at the end of the game he came over and told me, ‘Put (Crain) in, I already talked to the defense.’ I had him in for two plays and the official said, ‘Let him run the ball.’ He found the hole, then sprinted 60 yards to the end zone – he was a little confused at first, but he knew what to do with it once he got through the hole.”
Wells praised the sportsmanship the Bulldogs displayed.
“They let him have his moment,” Wells said. “Lucas has always been there. He never misses practice – it was good to get him in there” for the final score.
Grand’s quarterfinal opponent is archrival San Juan, whom the Red Devils will face in Blanding on Thursday, Oct. 27. The Broncos (8-1, 5-0 2A South) defeated Grand 49-0 in Moab on Oct. 14. Their only loss came against South Summit (also 8-1) in the opening game of the season. San Juan, the 2A South Champions, gave another pair of 8-1 teams, Beaver and 2A North Champion Summit Academy, their only losses of the season.
Wells said that for this meeting in Blanding with the season on the line, it’s key for the Red Devils to tackle better and be more aggressive.
“Hopefully we’ll come out fired up and ready to play football,” Wells said. “If we do that, we can make it interesting – give ourselves a chance to win going into the fourth quarter and see what happens.”
The 2A quarterfinal game at San Juan is scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m., on Thursday, Oct. 27.
Grand plays at region champ San Juan in quarterfinal
“We showed up ready to play. I was worried we’d have a letdown after we played Beaver and San Juan, both really good, senior-laden teams, but we came out fired up and got the win to play another week of football.”
When: Thursday, Oct. 27, 6 p.m.
Where: 311 N. 100 East, Blanding