Poetic is perhaps the best way to describe the matchup in the 2A championship game at Weber State University.
Grand County and South Summit will play for the 2A title at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and the two teams share more than just the game at hand.
In 2011, tragedy struck the Wildcats and the Kamas community when then-junior Porter Hancock was paralyzed in a freak accident when he suffered a dislocated neck after tackling an opposing player.
The Red Devils visited two weeks later for the first round of the 2A playoffs with a check for Hancock in hand.
This season, Grand County and all of Moab lost sophomore Sam Woodruff, who died unexpectedly between practices on the first day of two-a-days. South Summit head coach Jerry Parker and his team reacted with a fundraiser of their own.
“I don’t think people understand how difficult it really is on teams and coaches, knowing how to both grieve and focus on the season,” Parker said. “It was our way to give back. We were glad that we could do something.”
Both Parker and Grand County assistant coach Ron Dolphin appreciate the greater significance of playing one another for the title.
“It is poetic,” said Dolphin, “that the two teams so willing to help each other during times of despair now have an opportunity to meet on the field of battle.”
In their final week of practice, both teams are going through their preparation routines one last time. Parker noted a size difference between the two squads as well as the experience of the Grand County seniors.
“(In 2011) we played these kids as sophomores and they were all starting. Now they’re core seniors,” Parker said. “They have a bunch of returners and their coach (Dennis Wells) does such a good job in the playoffs. (Seeing Grand County in the championship game) doesn’t surprise me at all.”
The programs are also embracing each moment leading up to the big game.
“It’s been a good feeling this week; there is a great spirit in our community,” Dolphin said, noting the windows of businesses have been painted red and white throughout Moab.
“The boys are just enjoying every moment,” he said. “They are asking for one more rep, one more run through. They are soaking this up.”
Dolphin added that, in addition to playing for a state title, the two teams are, together, playing for something more.
“This is a chance to show character, grit, and commitment to something bigger than the game of football,” he said. “It is a fitting end to the season.”
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.
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