MOAB — For the first time in 26 years, the Grand County football team defeated its archrival San Juan on the road to wrap up regular season play.
While the 21-point victory was a small step in the long, nine-game season, doing so in San Juan territory and without their starting quarterback was a giant leap for the Red Devils, who now take on South Sevier in the 2A state playoffs Saturday.
“We had not beat San Juan in Blanding since 1987,” said assistant coach Ron Dolphin. “That win gave us a big road win, a tournament bye, a lot of momentum — it was huge for our psyche.”
While Dolphin, head coach Dennis Wells, and the Red Devils spent last weekend channeling that momentum into quarterfinal preparations, the Rams traveled to Millard for a first-round matchup, which they won, 27-26, in double overtime, to set up a second meeting with Grand County this season.
“I don’t think it matters we’ve played them already. It doesn’t give us an advantage,” Dolphin said of his team’s Week 4 victory. “We are feeding on our last win while not overlooking South Sevier. They are fundamentally sound and they don’t make mistakes, so we have to play that way, too.”
The Rams have been led all season by quarterback Trevor Jones, who has 1,281 yards and 12 touchdowns and works with two primary targets in Brock Bastian and Jaaron Nielsen. The junior and senior, respectively, have hauled in 513 yards and two TDs and 143 yards and five TDs. Jones and running back Avery Healey have combined for nearly 1,000 yards and seven scores on the ground.
Grand County, meanwhile, gets a boost with the return of senior Jacob Francis, who has missed seven weeks due to a broken leg suffered in the team’s only loss of the regular season. A main cog on offense with more than 1,000 total yards and 13 touchdowns, Francis will also make a major impact with his return to defense.
“Having Jake back is huge,” Dolphin said. “He is not the biggest or the strongest kid out there, but he sees everything and he is a step ahead. He is like having a coach on the field —almost Peyton Manning-esque at the high-school level.”
A major key to the Red Devils’ success so far this season has been the play of their defense, which has allowed just 10.6 points per game, a mark that is second in 2A and 23 points fewer than the team’s average offensive production.
In 2012, South Sevier lost to Millard in the 2A first round, while Grand County advanced to the semifinals, falling to eventual champion Manti, 58-15.
“(Last year) gave our kids a taste of the playoff experience,” Dolphin said. “This year, they are bound and determined to be the team to make the statement rather than have a statement made on them.
"We want to be in the championship game and we have the talent to get there, but it’s playoff time and everything starts over. Right now, South Sevier is 1-0 and we haven’t even played yet.”
South Sevier statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 16.2 ppg (10th in 2A)
Scoring defense: 23.5 ppg (10th in 2A)
Passing leader: Trevor Jones (108-190, 56.8 percent, 1,281 yards, 12 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Avery Healey (95 carries, 582 yards, 4 TDs), Trevor Jones (76 carries, 368 yards, 3 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Brock Bastian (48 catches, 513 yards, 2 TDs), Jaaron Nielsen (9 catches, 143 yards, 5 TDs)
Sack leaders: Wyatt Anderson (6)