I remember the first day I walked into the football stadium at Grand County High School. It was my second week as the editor of The Times-Independent, and I was somewhere departed to the south of intimidated by the mantle I had taken on by coming here. How could I possibly fill the shoes of the Taylors that came before me and established the get-it-done-right methodology this newspaper promulgates?
I have to admit, to that end I drowned myself in the cloak of Grand County “Go Big Red” during those first weeks after moving here. As a very successful sports editor in Utah and abroad, I have always felt a stronger connection to the field, ball court and baseball diamond than to the council chamber or the government photo op that is ever forthcoming. I knew those civic meetings would come, but for those first two weeks, I had football to distract me.
There is something special about our sporting venues, our teams and the aura of power it gives a town. Moab has a deep spiritual power all its own and when you couple that with the force majeure our young men and women put into their chosen sports, every season, it’s undeniable that we have one of the most potent athletic programs in all Utah for our size.
This year, football almost gave us a crown. We went 10-2 overall and, I can tell you this without hesitation, we were/are a better team than Beaver ever could have dreamt of being. Our fatal flaw was injuries late in the season. If we hadn’t lost all the fine young men that battled the gridiron war for us, we would have been playing in Cedar City for a 2A trophy this year.
In short, our Red Devils were absolute rock stars this year. It was one of the best seasons we’d had in nearly 40 years. That says something about head coach Dennis Wells and his program — and his dedication to the art of football.
The art of football…
When I was in college I was a student intern and erstwhile sports information officer for our athletic department. I was suckered into the job because I looked good in a suit and tie and could speak to the media in the mellow tones my college president, Paul Thein, wanted me to speak in. We made hay that season and ended up winning a championship trophy in California. The picture of that day still sits above the foyer of my college basketball stadium. It’s one of my proudest days.
I can clearly recall our football coach, Robert Cushman, telling us, “Football is the most complex game ever devised, if you take it seriously.” That year, we took it seriously — and ended up as champions. As I look back on the 2017 Red Devil football season, I remark on how seriously Wells and his players approached the nine-game minimum they would have to deal with. It turned out that the season went to 12 games and, even though we didn’t play for all the marbles, we got pretty darn close. It’s a testament to the devotion of each senior on the team as they held it together through the tough times, all the while winning games that could have easily been lost.
The art of football, in my opinion, is the art of letting go of self and becoming one with your teammate in a gridiron war zone. If you’re a champion you will be the player that will unselfishly — and without hesitation — jump in front of your fellow running back and lay the hit of the century on a fellow from the other side.
And you’ll do it because you love your teammate, not necessarily because you’re seeking the yardage or the touchdown. That is exactly what the Red Devils did this year. They played for each other and went far, with only broken bones and other maladies standing in the way of a trophy. Grand County’s football team, as far as I am concerned, is a champion without a trophy. We don’t need one. We know how good we are inside.
looking to spring…
We are right in the middle of the winter high school season, with basketball, wrestling, swimming and drill to entertain until the warmth of spring and outdoor sports return. Until that time, every sports fan in Moab and Grand County should avail themselves of the opportunity to come out and support the Red Devils. Ticket prices are cheap and there is usually a concession stand available to fulfill your junk food desires.
More than that, and I’m sure I can speak for every student athlete at Grand County High School, those players out there on the court, the mat or in the pool greatly appreciate every cheering fan in the stands. Even if, while in the heat of battle, they lose a sense that you’re out there (athletes frequently can’t hear the screaming fans while playing their respective sports — it’s a truism), they know you’re there and it matters to them in the long run.
We’re looking at a great season in the spring, but until then, let’s cheer on our winter high school sports and the plentiful-yet-chilly outdoor recreation we have in abundance here.
Greg Knight is the editor of The Times-Independent. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 435-259-7525.