For eight games so far this season, the No. 2 Red Devils’ football team (8-1, 4-1) has done its best to play up to a championship level — and this Friday, Oct. 27 as they face No. 3 Millard (7-3, 3-2) in the quarterfinals round of the Utah High School Activities Association 2A playoffs, they’re going to have to play the best game of their season.
The toughest part for Grand County is that they will have to win the game without star running back and defensive player Dakota Johnson after he sustained an off-field injury.
According to head coach Dennis Wells the senior playmaker is out for the season after breaking two bones in his left arm.
“[Johnson] had surgery last Friday and he went back in this week to get it finished,” Wells said. “It was still bad enough over last weekend that they had to finish stitching it on Wednesday. So, he’s done for the year.”
Before his injury, Johnson averaged 10.7 points per game, a stat nearly four times better than the majority of running backs in the nation.
The good news is that the Red Devils not only beat the Eagles, 40-7, back on Sept. 8 in Fillmore, but Wells’ team is running one of the toughest defenses in 2A. Now, with junior Corbin Arbon and freshman Dante Wells lining up behind quarterback Bryant Troutt — and on defense — Grand County needs to win again, at home.
“I’ve always told the linemen, ‘you are the heart of the whole team,’” Wells said. “The way the defense goes is the way we go. For Dakota’s position we will move Arbon up, and he can play the spot and cut up into the holes. We’re also going to bring in Wells, our kicker, because he has the speed to get around the end and can do some of the things Johnson did. You can’t replace Johnson or his leadership on the team, but we can make some adjustments and, hopefully, come out ahead.”
Trent Elmore has also been a leader for the Devils in scoring, penciling in four touchdowns — and Wells said he is going to rely on spreading the plays around to even more backs and receivers against the Eagles.
“Whatever I need, on any given play, I’m just going to throw them into the play and try to make it happen,” Wells said. “We’re going to rely on our depth in this game.”
The loss of Johnson will also affect the defense; as a defensive back he led Grand County with 52 tackles, averaging 5.8 per-game and logged three sacks against opponents for losses worth 22 yards.
“We have a three-man group of defensive backs, Jarett Reidhead, Nick Downard and Brayden Trout, that we are going to rotate through the plays,” Wells said of his defensive set. “We’re also going to move Jared Smith, who we call ‘Minnesota Smith,’ to outside linebacker, so the defense overall will not skip a beat.”
In addition to Johnson, the Red Devils have lost quarterbacks Josh Jones and Brayden Schultz to season-ending injuries.
Kickoff is set for Friday at 5 p.m. at Jeff Meador Field. The Eagles ascended to the game after besting South Sevier, 24-7, at Fillmore on Thursday, Oct. 19.