Koi Cook rushed for three touchdowns and fellow senior Jacob Francis added two more as the Red Devils defeated the Braves 34-13 in the 2A semi-finals.
Grand scored on its first two possessions and opened up a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The Red Devils added another pair of touchdowns in the second period to push their lead to 28-0 with just over two minutes left in the first half.
Francis, who started and played most of the game at quarterback, said it was like he’d never missed four games due to a fractured leg. Francis was injured Sept. 20 near the end of the third quarter during Grand’s only loss of the season to date, a 12-7 setback at Beaver.
“A lot of people thought I was done for the season,” Francis said. “But there was never a doubt in my mind that I’d be back for the playoffs,” he said.
On Nov. 1, six weeks to the date after his injury, Francis returned to the field for Grand’s 27-20 quarterfinal win over South Sevier in Moab. Although Francis played much of that game, he wasn’t 100 percent healthy. Against North Summit, however, he was back in regular form, directing the Red Devils’ potent offense at quarterback, and playing free safety on defense.
Cook, who was Grand’s starting quarterback throughout Francis’ absence, filled in for running back Cameron Taylor in the semifinal game. Taylor was still on the mend from a hamstring injury. Cook rushed for a team-high 130 yards on 18 carries against North Summit and powered his way into the end zone to score Grand’s first three touchdowns of the game.
Grand’s other two touchdowns were scored on runs by Francis, who tallied 119 yards on 19 carries. Francis also completed three of eight passes for a total of 77 yards.
Although still recovering from his injury, Taylor did carry the ball four times for 17 yards against North Summit. Koby Sobremesana added 60 yards rushing on five carries and made four of five extra point kicks.
“We played most of the game without our top running back, Cameron,” Francis said. “But he should be back at full strength for the championship game.”
Francis credited the Red Devil linemen and other defenders for Grand’s success on the field this season, particularly in Saturday’s big win over the Braves.
“Our offense just scores so much, that the defense sometimes gets overlooked,” he said. “We do give up about one big play a game, but that’s it. They had that one 72-yard touchdown play. But as a team, we learn from our mistakes, and we did a pretty good job shutting them down after that.”
The Braves’ 72-yard scoring play happened with 1:21 left in the first half. It was a wild play by Braves running back Trevor Hale. Hale started the breakout run from North Summit’s own 28-yard line, but a Grand defender managed to catch him and knock the ball from his grasp at the 5-yard line, sending the ball into the end zone. Hale beat Cook to the loose ball, earning a fumble recovery touchdown and putting the Braves on the scoreboard.
Grand then fumbled the ball away on its next play from scrimmage, giving North Summit an opportunity to score again before halftime. However, a couple plays later, Grand’s Ronnie Dolphin intercepted a pass and the Red Devils were able to keep their three-touchdown lead heading into halftime.
North Summit fumbled the ball four times during the game, losing two, while the Red Devils lost two of their three fumbles. Each team also had one pass intercepted.
“Those miscues were about the only thing that stopped us from moving the ball,” said GCHS head coach Dennis Wells. “Fortunately, our defense played really well throughout the game, and we managed to stop their running game.”
“They did make a couple of big plays on us, but we pretty much stayed in control of the ball for most of the game,” Wells added, noting that the Red Devils refrained from throwing the ball in the second half, thereby keeping the clock running much of the time.
Neither team scored during a see-saw third quarter that featured three turnovers and three punts. Dolphin left the game with a “stinger” injury midway through the quarter and didn’t return to action, although he is expected to play in the upcoming championship game.
Grand capitalized on a North Summit fumble toward the end of the third quarter, eventually scoring on a five-yard run by Francis in the opening minute of the fourth. That extended the Red Devils’ lead to 34-7, effectively putting the game out of reach.
North Summit advanced the ball the length of the field on its next possession, which culminated in a 4-yard touchdown run by Josh Birk to make it 34-13 with 7:55 remaining in the contest.
Grand then kept the ball in its possession for the remainder of the game as the Red Devils made a few key first downs and ran out the clock.
The Red Devils improved to 10-1 on the season with the victory.
Next up for the Red Devils will be the state 2A championship game, scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16 at Weber State University in Ogden. Grand will face the 10-1 South Summit Wildcats, who defeated Beaver 14-7 in the other semifinal game at SUU on Nov. 9. Grand will be looking to win its second-ever state title – the first was in 2005. South Summit has a total of four state football titles to its credit, most recently in 1988.
“South Summit is a great team,” Wells said. “But if we stay healthy and focused and execute our game plan, we should be able to compete with them next Saturday.”
Francis agreed. “South Summit will definitely be the toughest team we’ll face this year, probably,” he said. “But with the game plan we have, if we stick to it and execute it like we should, we’re confident that we can beat them. We just have to go out and do what it takes to win.”
Grand’s fans and supporters began “painting the town red” this week, decorating the windows of vehicles, the storefronts of community businesses and the high school. Many of the painted messages included references to No. 62, the jersey number of sophomore player Sam Woodruff, who died suddenly on Aug. 10, a few days before the season began.
The Red Devil football players dedicated their season to Woodruff’s memory, and have collectively said that their fallen teammate provided much of the motivation and inspiration behind the team’s 10-win season and hard-earned ticket to the state title game.
On Friday, Nov. 15, a school-wide pep assembly will take place at GCHS starting at 10 a.m. The community is invited to attend. The event will feature a celebration of the school’s fall successes, as well as the official retiring of Woodruff’s No. 62 jersey.