The Grand County High School football team found itself thoroughly over-matched on Saturday, Nov. 4, at Weber State University in the 2A semifinal, as the Red Devils’ season ended with a 47-9 loss to the South Summit Wildcats.

Grand’s biggest weakness all season was pass defense, especially after the loss of seniors Brayden Schultz and Josh Jones in the homecoming game, and Dakota Johnson right before the playoffs, as they were the team’s best pass defenders as well as all-state quality offensive contributors. South Summit exposed that weakness early and often, moving the ball at will and scoring through the air twice in the first quarter alone.

Overall, South Summit quarterback Kael Atkinson had five passing touchdowns, four of which came in the first half, completing 14 of 23 passes for 232 yards. The Wildcats jumped out to a 34-3 lead before halftime as the depleted Red Devils offered little resistance. With Beaver defeating Delta 35-16 in the other semifinal, the Wildcats and Beavers will meet in the title game for a third straight year. It’s the fifth straight year that South Summit has advanced to the title game.

“Honestly, before the game even started I didn’t know if we’d have an answer for them defensively,” Grand football coach Dennis Wells said. “They can pass, they can run, their quarterback can run. They have so many ways to attack you.”

Wells called this year’s Wildcats the best 2A he’d seen since he began coaching the Red Devils in 2002.

“To give you an idea just how good they are, Morgan is in the 3A title game this weekend and South Summit beat them 56-7,” he said.

The Wildcat defense also stifled Grand’s offense, loading the box to stop the Red Devils’ potent run game and force Grand to go to the air. Grand’s quarterbacks found themselves under siege when they dropped back, completing only six of 15 passes and throwing a pair of interceptions. Junior Chris Thompson was Grand’s leading rusher with 36 yards on four carries. He gained 40 yards on one carry, and minus-4 yards on his other three carries combined. Trent Elmore had 34 yards on nine carries, Bryant Troutt had 31 yards on 14 carries, Corbin Arbon had 23 yards on six carries and Nick Downard had 23 yards on three carries.

The Red Devils’ opportunities to score were few and far between as they were able to come away with a 24-yard Dante Wells field goal late in the first half and a touchdown from Kayden Robertson in the game’s closing seconds. Prior to the game with South Summit, the Red Devils had scored at least 21 points in every game, and had surpassed 28 points in all but two contests.

The already-depleted Red Devils suffered a plethora of injuries throughout the meeting with the Wildcats. In the first half, senior Jarett Reidhead and sophomore Brayden Troutt were each placed on concussion protocol, while Thompson was injured by a horse-collar tackle on his long run late in the first half and tried to play in the second half, before being pulled from the game. Dante Wells, who plays safety and running back in addition to kicking and punting, was shaken up being tackled while running the ball and only kicked sporadically in the second half, occasionally yielding the duties to junior Bailey Shelton.

The game was chippy and sportsmanship was in short supply at several points during the contest. Each team was flagged for several personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct violations. Grand sophomore quarterback Bryant Troutt was ejected in the second half for throwing his helmet after an exchange with a Wildcat player.

“I told our guys no matter what happens, you can’t retaliate,” the coach said. “We just have to beat them on the field.”

Wells said his quarterback was in tears and apologized to his teammates after the game. Bryant Troutt’s ejection, combined with injuries, opened up playing time for several less experienced players.

“They’re going to have a lot of good experience,” Wells said. “I told the team at the end-of-season meeting that if you want to beat the South Summits of the world, it starts now, not next August … We owe ’em next year. We’ve got to prepare.”

One could say that Grand is losing a handful of seniors to graduation, but this year it’s relatively moot as most of the seniors were injured long before the season ended, meaning that with a couple of exceptions, the Red Devils will return their entire core from the second half of this season.

“We’ve got a lot of guys coming back,” coach Wells said. “I honestly think we don’t skip a beat next year. We might even be better.”

Grand finishes season with 9-2 record

They’re going to have a lot of good experience. I told the team at the end-of-season meeting today that if you want to beat the South Summits of the world, it starts now, not next August … We owe ’em next year. We’ve got to prepare.