The Grand County Red Devils collectively ran the ball for 377 yards and seniors Josh Jones and Brayden Schultz each had a pair of touchdowns as the Red Devils easily defeated Monticello 39-6 in their season opener in Moab on Friday, Aug. 18.
Schultz had 194 yards on 14 carries and also hauled in a 20-yard reception from the tailback position, while Jones, who played quarterback, carried the ball 10 times for 62 yards. Fellow senior Dakota Johnson had 70 rushing yards on six carries, while junior Trent Elmore pitched in 25 yards, junior Andrew Hansen added 14 yards and sophomore Bryant Troutt added 12 yards.
“It felt great,” Schultz said of the team’s season-opening performance. “(The offensive line) blocked great, which is good to see this early in the year.”
The Red Devils did not punt or turn the ball over, scoring on every position they had in the game, while also adding one defensive score in the form of a safety in the first quarter. Monticello turned the ball over once on a fumble recovered by Grand senior Nick Downard, as well as the safety and a turnover on downs. Their only score came with two seconds remaining in the game.
Grand received the game’s opening kickoff and marched the ball 72 yards for the game’s first score, which was a 6-yard touchdown run from Jones. Schultz highlighted the opening drive with runs of 24 and 18 yards. On the following possession, good kickoff coverage pinned the Buckaroos deep before a pair of sacks with a pair of Monticello penalties sandwiched in between resulted in a safety, giving Grand a 9-0 lead with 3:51 to go in the first quarter.
Grand County football coach Dennis Wells said the safety set the tone defensively for the Red Devils for the rest of the game.
“We kept the pressure on them and took care of the ball,” he said.
Grand got the ball back at the 45-yard line and picked up right where it left off, continuing a successful rushing attack as Jones punched in another 7-yard touchdown run to extend Grand’s advantage to 16-0.
Jones spent most of the 2016 season out with a leg injury and said he was excited to perform well in the opener.
“It was exciting,” he said. “I didn’t even make it through the first game last year without getting hurt.”
Downard’s fumble recovery came on the Buckaroos’ first play of the following drive before Schultz scored on a 1-yard run to put Grand up 23-0. Grand extended its lead to 30-0 shortly before halftime on a 4-yard run by Elmore. Schultz scored again from 31 yards out to end Grand’s first drive of the second half and give the Red Devils a 36-0 lead. Freshman kicker Dante Wells was perfect on kicks in his high school debut, connecting on four extra-point attempts and a field goal. After a poor snap on what would have been his fifth extra-point attempt, Wells picked up the ball and tried to run it in for a two-point conversion, but was stopped short of the goal line.
Grand continued pounding away with a running clock thanks to the rule in which the clock runs continuously except for during timeouts, possession changes and injuries when one team has a 35-point lead. Wells’ field goal from 28 yards out capped off Grand’s final drive with 4:28 remaining in the game.
The Buckaroos took advantage of Grand’s younger players getting some experience late in the game to move the ball down the field. Some of the starters came back in to try to preserve the shutout, but the Buckaroos scored a touchdown with two seconds remaining. A blocked point-after resulted in the final score of 39-6.
“It felt good that we didn’t have to punt,” Dennis Wells said. “Even when we had a long way to go because of a penalty or something like that, we didn’t panic and start throwing the ball.”
Wells said it is important for the Red Devils to stay hungry and not to get overconfident because of Friday’s win.
“We can’t think that we’ve arrived,” he said. “We’ve got to show up to play every week.”
Prior to the game, a moment of silence was observed and a statement spoken for Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler, a Special Forces soldier with the Utah National Guard, who was killed in Afghanistan last week. Butler, 27, graduated from Monticello High School in 2008. Funeral services for Butler are scheduled with a viewing from 9 to 11:30 a.m., and the funeral will follow immediately after on Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Monticello LDS Stake Center, 165 S. Main St.
Grand’s next game is on the road versus Montezuma-Cortez in Cortez, Colorado. The Red Devils beat the Panthers 30-14 in Moab last season.
Wells said he didn’t know much about the 2017 Panthers, but his team will break down film and put together a plan. Jones said that not much will change strategically for the Red Devils.
“I think (the Panthers) throw the ball a little more than Monticello, but we’ll have the same basic game plan,” Jones said. “We’re going to watch film and get going.”
Jones, Schultz each score pair of TDs
“We kept the pressure on them and took care of the ball.”