They have always been a solid group of kids. They have turned into a great group of young men. We are excited to see what they can do. —Assistant coach Ron Dolphin
Note: Grand County finished with a 7-4 overall record in 2012 and tied for second place in 2A South with a 5-2 record. It lost to Manti 58-15 in the 2A semifinals.
MOAB — The Grand County football team is sitting in a pretty good position.
Not only are the Red Devils coming off a year that saw them win five more games than they had the previous season and advance to the semifinals, but they also have many of their primary contributors from a year ago back on the gridiron.
On top of that, the cohesive group is ready to give their all for the sake of the team.
“This group is a tight-knit family,” said assistant coach Ron Dolphin, who has coached the upperclassmen since they were in elementary school.
“They all care about each other; they are all leaders; they are all excited when somebody does something good,” Dolphin continued. “They all want what’s best for the team — it’s not about the stat.”
The all-for-one attitude was especially visible last season when quarterback and defensive back Jacob Francis was sidelined for a few games due to injury and Koi Cook, an all-purpose athlete who was No. 14 on the Deseret News top 20 prep football players list, stepped in to fill the hole.
That versatility is common across the Red Devils roster, and is not limited only to football.
“We spread the Moab kids thin,” Dolphin said, adding that many of the boys on the team are involved in multiple sports, student government, the school musical, and working jobs.
“Everyone is doing 50 different things. They are involved in everything,” Dolphin said. “It is amazing what we get out of these kids.”
That same versatility allows the team to spread its weapons around the field.
A year ago, Francis, now a senior, had 988 passing yards, 765 rushing yards, 16 total touchdowns, 44 tackles, two interceptions, two field goals and 24 PATs. Cook added 1,162 more offensive yards, 14 scores, a team-high 129 tackles and three interceptions.
“We have a lot of guys who can attack,” coach Dolphin said. “(Opponents) can’t just key in on one kid this year; we will be able to keep the defense honest.”
The Red Devils boast three key returning full-time linemen in Edgar Gomez, Austin Day and David Bentley. They will lead a group of juniors — which includes Tanner White, Adam Flanders, Josh Harris and Charlie DeMars Conoly — who the coaching staff expects to make a big impact.
“We have greater depth on the line,” Dolphin said, “which is something we missed last year.”
After watching this group of juniors and seniors grow up, the coach feels the greatest growth he has seen is in their size.
“They have always been a solid group of kids,” he said. “They have turned into a great group of young men. We are excited to see what they can do.”
Grand County kicks off with three straight home games before hitting the road in the second week of September. Dolphin said that, after the semifinal run last season, the coaching staff and their players are utilizing the experience but are avoiding getting “destination disease” and will take this season one game at a time.
“2A is pretty wide open. It’s anybody’s game,” he said. “We are striving to be there. We are working hard and hoping to have a little luck on our side when we meet the opportunity.”
Grand County Red Devils at a glance
Coach: Dennis Wells is entering his 12th season as Grand County’s head coach, where he has led the Red Devils to a 52-64 record. He is also a graduate of Grand County High.
Offense (7 returning starters, Spread Pistol) Jacob Francis and Koi Cook return to run the Grand County offense, and in spite of a few injuries, they did a solid job a year ago. The Red Devils averaged 25.5 points per game in 2012, a 12-point-per-game improvement over the previous year, which resulted in five additional wins. Working alongside those key players will be a crew of talented and experienced juniors and seniors.
Defense (6 returning starters) The Red Devil defense also improved tremendously in 2012, allowing four fewer points per game and losing half as many. Linemen Edgar Gomez, Austin Day and David Bentley will lead the effort while Dalton McElhaney, Wade Kemmsies and Brandon Seacrest solidify the defense.
Coaches preseason 2A South straw poll: Third
Deseret News 2A South prediction: Fourth
Bottom line: Grand County improved drastically last season and looks to use many of the same kids to continue being successful. The 2A South region is always a challenge, especially with San Juan and Kanab in the mix, but for the most part the Red Devils know their opponents and know what they are up against. Staying healthy and consistent are keys to another solid season.
Grand coaching history
2002-current — Dennis Wells (52-64)
1996-2001 — Ron Dolphin (21-39)
1994-1995 — Doug Thompson (13-7)
1992-1993 — Steve Hren (3-15)
1989-1991 — Doug Thompson (11-16)
1985-1988 — Bill Moore (16-19)
1983-1984 — Curtis Page (14-7)
1982 — Verplank (4-5)
1980-1981 — Bruce Burningham (5-14)
1959-1979 — Glen Richeson (134-72)
1954-1958 — Darrel Crawford (12-18)
1951-1953 — Dick Hill (8-11)
1949-1950 — Larry Palmer (12-4)
1947-1948 — K.L. Davis (7-10)
1946 – Mike McQuirk (0-4)
1944-1945 — Unknown (5-8)
1943 — Willard Devitt (2-4)
1941-1942 — Unknown (7-4)
1939-1940 — Ken Soffe (6-5)
1931-1938 — Glenn Merrill (25-14)
1930 — Joe Day (2-1)
1927-1929 — Eddie Kimball (14-5)
1925-1926 — Clem Campbell (8-4)
1921-1924 — H.B. Evans (7-5)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2005 — Tanner Brown, RB
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2012 — Jacob Francis, QB/DB
2012 — Koi Cook, RB/DB
2012 — Edgar Gomez, OL/DL
2011 — Kevin Ballard, LB
2010 — Billy Keddington, QB
2009 — Sam DeMars Conoly, LB
2009 — Trevor Robertson, QB/DB
2009 — Dallen Dalton, RB/LB
2008 — Tony Cossairt, OL
2007 — Gordon Garrett, QB/DB
2007 — Daniel Simpson, DL
2006 — Tanner Brown, RB
2006 — Gordon Garrett, QB/DB
2006 — Kelly VanArsdol, WR/DB
2005 — Zane Taylor, DL/OL
2005 — Tony Dalton, QB/DB
2005 — Andy Baker, OL/LB
2005 — Travis Stott, OL/DL
2005 — Cody Skiby, TE/LB
2004 — Zane Taylor, OL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.