In a replay of what happened in the 2016-17 season, a Grand County Red Devil backup quarterback was put in the position of having to step up as his team’s leader — after a broken collarbone sidelined starter Josh Jones during the Devils’ 56-14 homecoming win over the North Sevier Wolves on Friday, Sept. 21.
Jones had a brilliant, though short-lived first quarter, as he amassed 41 yards on five carries and handed off for three rushing touchdowns. He was tackled hard from behind on a keeper up the middle with just more than two minutes to go and he skidded to a stop in the grass before slowly getting up.
“It’s broken, coach,” Jones said. “I need to get out of here, out of the game.”
Emergency medical staff attended to Jones, who left the stadium in a shoulder wrap — and that’s when sophomore Bryant Troutt stepped off the sideline and into action.
The loss of Jones wouldn’t be the only setback of the game for the Red Devils, however, as tailback Brayden Schultz was also pulled from the game after fracturing his collarbone in the opening minutes of the game.
“It really hurts to lose those two, you know,” said head coach Dennis Wells. “We didn’t just lose a quarterback and a tailback, we lost two quarterbacks and two guys that could really play defensively for us, so this leaves a big hole that will require us to adjust. Luckily, we have a lot of depth on our offense and we were able to keep scoring. We can’t replace them, especially on defense, but we have some other kids coming along and we should be okay.”
Before his season-ending injury, Schultz accumulated 478 yards on 68 carries and logged five TDs. He also had six receptions for 66 yards and had 10 tackles and an interception. Jones’ end-of-season stats include a 21-44 showing as a passer for 393 yards and four TDs (and a pair of INTs), and 68 carries for 341 yards and seven TDs.
Off to a quick start
The band had hardly finished playing the Star-Spangled Banner before the Red Devils had put together an eight-play 65-yard scoring drive that culminated in 16-yard endzone run by Schultz with 8:21 left in the first quarter. After a 28-yard rushing play by the Wolves, Grand County senior Nick Downard snagged a pick-six from quarterback Taylor Crane, running it back from the 48-yard-line for the score.
With the Red Devils leading 14-0, things went from bad to worse for the Wolves as junior Austin Johnson picked up a fumble recovery at the 27-yard-line — which led to a six-play push and a 5-yard TD run by Dakota Johnson with 5:21 left in the first quarter.
The Wolves were finally able to get on the board after putting together a grueling 13-play, 68-yard drive that saw Crane connect with junior Manny Perez from 15 yards out. A failed PAT that flew wide right left North Sevier trailing 21-6 with 1:49 left in the first quarter.
The Red Devils capitalized on the next offensive drive after Troutt (at quarterback) ran it into the endzone on a second-and-goal play with 11:17 to go in the second quarter, elevating Grand to a 28-6 lead.
“Troutt stepped up for us in a big way, like he did last season,” Wells said. “He’s a sophomore, but he is fast and he runs the offense quite well. Now, we just have to hope that he stays healthy, that the rest of the team stays healthy for these last few games.”
Though the Wolves would score a TD and 2PAT on their next possession, it didn’t come easy as the Red Devil pass defense swarmed; the duo of Billy Meador and Kayden Robertson each got their fingertips on passes from Crane for breakups and Chris Thompson made a huge stop against the North Sevier ground game halfway through the drive.
“When everything happened with [Schultz and Jones], we had to move [Dakota Johnson] from linebacker to safety, because with their quarterback, who can throw, we couldn’t let him just sit in the pocket,” Wells said. “Guys like Meador and Robertson and Thompson put in a huge effort to put pressure on their air game, which helped us contain them on the ground.”
As the clock showed 5:58 remaining in the first half, Dakota Johnson levied the second of his five TDs of the night against North Sevier. Johnson was so good on offense in the latter half of the game that he would go on to score the remaining three touchdowns his team would make that night — including an 85-yard punt return with 2:59 left in the half. Those scores would eventually cement the Red Devils sixth victory of the season on a final score of 56-14.
When defenses swarm
A lot can be said of how defenses win championships.
With that in mind, the Red Devils have outscored their opponents 244-43 so far this season and North Sevier is the only team they have faced that has been able to score more than single digits in a game.
The game plan against North Sevier called for particular care regarding the Wolves’ air game (Crane went 22-43 for 235 yards passing). The interception by Downard, combined with the deflections and blocked passes by Meador, Thompson and Robertson, as well as blocks by juniors Stacy Randall and Bailey Shelton, contributed to an overall stunting of the pass-offense used by North Sevier.
On the ground, Grand County swarmed as well; in addition to a sack by senior Gage Hansen, both Downard and Johnson racked up four solo tackles. In all, nine Red Devil defenders had two or more solo tackles and Jarett Reidhead assisted on four stops in the game.
The Red Devils are 6-0 (2-0 in region play) and will face the Enterprise Wolves (1-4, 0-2) on Friday, Sept. 28 at Jeff Meador Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“Enterprise has a really good defense,” Wells said. “They run a different defense than what we have seen so far this season, and they also beat us last year on the road, though we are quite a different team this season as well. We’re not going to overlook them.”