Grand football coach Dennis Wells (left) coaches juniors Kayden Tranter (center) and Trea Meyer (right) firing off the line at practice on Monday, July 30. [Photo by Tim Chappell  / Moab Sun News]

The Grand County High School football team opened its official practice on Monday, July 30, in preparation for its upcoming season opener at Morgan on Friday, Aug. 17, with plenty of talented starters, but few total players.

The Deseret News pre-season rankings have the Red Devils ranked third behind state champion South Summit and state runner-up Beaver.

The Red Devils have 32 players on the roster, a low turnout so far, coach Dennis Wells said, making it critical for Grand to steer clear of injuries in the upcoming season.

The Red Devils have six returning starters on each side of the ball after finishing 2017 at 9-2, losing in the 2A semifinal. Grand has 12 seniors on this year’s team.

“We’ve got some talented upperclassmen, we just don’t have the same depth we had last year,” he said.

Wells said the Red Devils have a good stable of running backs and tight ends, but are light on quarterbacks.

Senior Andrew Hansen had figured to compete with junior Bryant Troutt for the starting nod in varsity, but opted not to play football. Troutt is Grand’s second leading rusher among returning players, having amassed 577 yards in 2017. Only senior running back Trent Elmore had more with 590.

Senior Corbin Arbon, junior Brayden Cloud and sophomore Dante Wells will see action in the running game as well

The Red Devils, who rarely pass the ball, don’t have a single returning player that had double-digit catches in 2017. Grand has a large group of tight ends, including seniors Stacy Randall and Austin Johnson.

Junior Trea Meyer has been doing a good job catching balls during the off-season, prompting coach Wells to move him from tackle to tight end, and moving senior Jarett Reidhead to tackle.

The Red Devils return a strong core on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the front seven with senior Chris Thompson and junior Brayden Troutt anchoring the middle of the defense at linebacker — each having approached 60 tackles in 2017, and seniors Reidhead and Jarom Shumway stuffing up the line.

Troutt will be sitting out the season opener at Morgan after being ejected from Grand’s semifinal loss to South Summit last season; and Elmore is nursing a hamstring injury that has limited his preparation for the season. Coach Wells said that Dante Wells will start at quarterback in Troutt’s absence against the Trojans, who placed second in 3A in 2017.

“I think our team will be ready,” Wells said. “I’m not afraid of 3A. I think our team can hang with any team at that level.”

After the Red Devils play the Trojans, they play at home against Emery, another 3A team, on Friday, Aug. 24. Grand returns to 2A competition against American Leadership Academy and Millard to round out the preseason. Their marquee match-up for the regular season is on Oct. 5, when they host the 2A runner-up Beavers in what could be an unofficial regional title game.

Wells said the Beavers are a tough team perennially, despite having only two starters returning. Grand’s other 2A South opponents are Enterprise, North Sevier, South Sevier and San Juan.

Grand ranked No. 3 in 2A preseason poll

“I think our team will be ready. I’m not afraid of 3A. I think our team can hang with any team at that level.”