The South Summit Wildcats scored 22 points in the last four minutes of the first half, enabling them to pull away from the Grand County High School (GCHS) Red Devils, 50-25, in the UHSAA Utah State 2A Championship game on Saturday, Nov. 10, in Ogden.
The Red Devils and Wildcats played an evenly matched first 20 minutes, but the Red Devils had trouble getting South Summit’s offense off the field on fourth down, leading to two early scores that pilfered away the early momentum Grand had seized. With the Red Devils up 7-0 after an early flea flicker from junior quarterback Bryant Troutt to senior wide receiver Stacy Randall worked to perfection for a 51-yard touchdown pass, South Summit had fourth down and seven yards to go from their own 23, and reigning 2A MVP and departing senior Kael Atkinson scrambled for 17 yards and a first down. The Wildcats capped off the drive with a 22-yard pass from Atkinson to fellow senior Jared Dansie, followed by a two-point conversion run from Dansie, to take an 8-7 lead.
A quarter later, South Summit extended what was a 16-13 lead to 22-13 on a 57-yard Atkinson run on fourth down. The Red Devils fumbled the first play of the following drive, and South Summit capitalized with a 20-yard Atkinson-to-Dansie touchdown pass to go up 30-13. Following a turnover on downs by GCHS, the Wildcats scored once more before halftime, parlaying a 32-yard pass on the first play of the drive into 28-yard touchdown pass from Atkinson to Dansie three plays later, giving the Wildcats 22 unanswered points in 3 minutes and 13 seconds of game time.
GCHS football coach Dennis Wells said those three quick scores changed the complexion of the game.
“If we get into halftime 16-13, it’s a totally different ballgame,” he said. “We made a few missteps and with a team like that, you can’t do that because they’ll take advantage.”
Grand tried to reignite in the second half, but a field goal attempt by a banged-up sophomore Dante Wells fell just short of the upright, and South Summit took advantage four plays later with a 65-yard Atkinson-to-Dansie strike for a 44-13 lead. Late in the third quarter, the Wildcats scored for their final time on a 78-yard interception return after GCHS senior Trent Elmore fell down coming out of the backfield.
The 50-13 advantage meant a running clock for the rest of the game, except for timeouts and injuries. The Red Devils scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to narrow the gap: a one-yard run by Troutt and a three-yard run by Elmore; for the final score of 50-25.
Statistically, the Red Devils dominated time of possession and out-gained the Wildcats 487 to 437. Grand collectively rushed for more than 400 yards, 275 of which came from Troutt, who had 31 carries. Elmore had 24 carries for 101 yards, while junior Brayden Cloud and senior Chris Thompson each had three carries for 13 yards. Senior starting running back Corbin Arbon carried the ball three times for five yards before leaving the game on a stretcher in the first half, following a run from out of the Red Devils’ own end zone, in which the Wildcats were in a fever pitch going for the safety. Arbon returned to the sideline without his pads on prior to the end of the game.
Coach Wells said that missing Arbon and Dante Wells, as well as leading tackler Brayden Troutt, who arrived at the game on crutches, hurt the Red Devils, who only dressed 28 players for the game, compared to about 75 for the Wildcats.
Statistically for the Wildcats, Atkinson was 12-of-25 passing for 198 yards, while also rushing for 122 yards and two touchdowns, accounting for all six of South Summit’s offensive touchdowns. Dansie had seven catches for 141 yards and four touchdowns, and carried the ball three times for 94 yards.
South Summit’s Hagen Miles had 22 tackles, many of which stopped Grand’s kick returners dead in their tracks. For the Red Devils, sophomore Jimmie Johnson led the stat column with five tackles.
The Red Devils are now 1-7 all-time in state championship games, winning only in 2005. For the Wildcats, it was their sixth consecutive appearance in the title game. They won the title in 2013 (over Grand), 2014, 2017 and 2018, with losses to Beaver in 2015 and 2016.
“There’s a lot of emotion right now,” Elmore said. “We made little mistakes and they took advantage of them. Other than that, we were pretty even with them.”
Elmore had praise for the team’s resolve throughout the season.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to finish my senior year with,” he said. “We had a couple bad games, but we always came back strong.”
Coach Wells said the 2018 Red Devils came a long way from the beginning of the season to earn the state runner-up trophy.
“We struggled early on and the guys stepped up as the season went on,” he said. “We knew what kind of team we had.”
South Summit uses second-quarter run to pull away from underdog GCHS
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to finish my senior year with.”