Sophomore Sam Woodruff, who died suddenly at his home the afternoon of Aug. 10 of yet-undetermined causes, was eulogized and laid to rest on Friday afternoon, Aug. 16. Woodruff, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound lineman, was remembered for his diligent work ethic, his kindness to others, and his eager-to-please attitude. His fellow teammates served as pall-bearers and accompanied the casket to the cemetery after the funeral and paid tribute to Woodruff at the graveside as well.
Before Saturday’s “Red and White” game, the Red Devils ran onto the field carrying a small white fabric flag on which Woodruff had written an inspirational message just two weeks prior to his death. Following a three-day youth conference in Logan, Woodruff and dozens of other teenagers hiked to the top of Ensign Peak north of Salt Lake City, and unfurled their personally decorated flags. Woodruff’s flag bore the handwritten message: “Never surrender what you believe in, ever. Keep Fighting. Persevere.”
That inspiring message has become the Red Devils’ motto for their upcoming season, which they have dedicated to the memory of Woodruff, according to GCHS head football coach Dennis Wells. The team’s helmets, which are now emblazoned with new “G” stickers and uniform numbers, also all have a black circular sticker bearing Woodruff’s jersey number, 62, attached to the back of each helmet.
“The scrimmage went well, and we didn’t have any major injuries,” Wells said of Saturday night’s practice game.
Scores and statistics weren’t kept, but both squads appeared to score at least three or four touchdowns during the two-hour event.
This week, the Red Devils will face the Carbon Dinos in their season opener at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23 at Moab. The game is a Utah High School Activities Association endowment game, which means that even those with school-issued student and family activity passes will have to pay admission – $5 for adults, $3 for students and senior citizens.
Although the Dinos had a 1-9 record last year, Wells said Carbon is likely to be a more competitive team this season.
“Hopefully, we will be ready for them and we’ll be able to make any adjustments we need,” he said. The Carbon game will be followed next week by another non-region contest against a 3A opponent when the Red Devils take on the Emery Spartans on Aug. 30, also at Moab. Grand will then start region play at home the following week, on Sept. 6, when they face the North Sevier Wolves. That contest will be Grand’s homecoming game.
Woodruff’s mother, Merry Woodruff, and adoptive grandmother, Sandi Roedel, were among the many fans who attended Saturday night’s scrimmage game. A total of $1,700 dollars were collected during the game to help pay for Woodruff’s funeral expenses.
Earlier in the day, the football players and coaches had spent four to five hours pulling weeds and trimming grass at the Sunset Memorial Gardens cemetery, as a service project to help cover the cost of the burial plot.
Wells said the team and coaching staff wish to thank the Grand County Council and the Grand County Cemetery Special Service District for allowing them to do the service project, which he hopes to make an annual event during football camp every year.