By Nathaniel Smith • The Times-Independent
The Grand County High School football team came out firing in its first home game Friday evening, defeating the Emery Spartans 42-17. Grand dominated the first half, getting out to an early lead that the team never relinquished.
Grand kicked off to the Spartans to begin the game Aug. 24. Emery’s initial drive ground to a halt when the Red Devil defense was able to stuff a run on a fourth down and short yardage situation. Grand took over with good field position and got to work moving the ball down the field, relying primarily on the running game. The drive was capped off with a 21-yard touchdown run by Corbin Arbon. Dante Wells drilled the extra point.
Grand totally stifled Emery’s second drive, forcing a four and out before the Spartans could get a first down. Once back in possession, the Red Devils struck quickly when Dante Wells hit Stacy Randall for a 55-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive.
Emery was finally able to get some momentum downfield on the next drive. The Spartans moved the ball close to the Red Devils’ goal line and were poised to narrow the margin. However, Austin Johnson slid in front of a pass and picked it off, keeping the Spartans off the new scoreboard. Grand was unable to capitalize on the turnover as the team’s next drive ended with a punt.
A couple of penalties helped Grand stall Emery’s offense and force another punt. Though starting on its own 15 yard-line, Grand’s offense marched right down the field. Dante Wells and Randall connected for another touchdown, this time for 40 yards.
Down 21-0 in the second quarter, Emery was getting desperate for a score, but Grand’s defense was unrelenting. As the Spartans tried to run the ball upfield, Trae Meyer delivered a punishing hit and caused a fumble. Trent Elmore recovered the loose football for the Red Devils.
With good field position, Grand was able to take advantage of Emery’s mistake. Bryant Troutt lined up behind center and threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Chris Thompson.
With time ticking away, Emery had one last chance to score before halftime. The Spartans drove into the red zone with about two minutes remaining. Arbon swatted down a pass in the end zone, but Emery managed to continue moving the ball. Grand’s defense held strong, stuffing two runs from the 5-yard line, but Emery was finally able to get on the board with a touchdown pass on third down.
Only 36 seconds were left in the half, but Grand wasn’t ready to head into the locker room yet. A good kick-off return from Brayden Cloud brought the ball out close to midfield. Then, Randall caught a pass that took the Red Devils to the 9-yard line. With 13 seconds on the clock, Arbon punched in a nine-yard touchdown run to put Grand ahead 35-7 going into the second half.
During halftime, the drill team and the cheer squad each performed a dance number. The Red Devilettes delighted the crowd with a high-energy performance while the cheerleaders showed off their talents and got everyone excited for another half of football. The marching band helped keep spirits high with well-timed fight songs.
In addition to their sizeable lead, Grand started the third quarter with the ball. The Red Devils were driving, but a holding penalty prevented a fourth-down conversion and forced a punt.
Emery, eager to get back in the game, came out passing. Grand’s defense was ready, and Trent Elmore intercepted a pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Up 42-7, Grand let off the gas and coasted to the finish. Emery scored a second touchdown late in the third quarter and recovered an onside kick, threatening to make the end of the game a bit more interesting. Grand ended Emery’s follow-up drive with a fourth-down stop at the outset of the final quarter. The Spartans nabbed an interception and kicked a field goal, but it was too little too late. The Red Devils went into victory formation and took a knee to run out the clock on their 42-17 victory.
Sophomore Dante Wells completed six of seven passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, also adding 18 yards on the ground. Junior Bryant Troutt completed the two passes he threw, while also rushing for 41 yards on six carries. Senior Corbin Arbon led Grand’s rushing game with 50 yards and two touchdowns on only four carries. Senior Stacy Randall was the game’s standout receiver with five catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Chris Thompson excelled on both sides of the ball, catching a touchdown pass and leading the defense with seven solo tackles while assisting on ten more.
Grand’s coach Dennis Wells said, “it was a good first win for us, but there’s still a lot to work on.” He noted Emery was a weaker opponent than Morgan, who defeated the Red Devils in this season’s first game, but he was still pleased with his team’s performance. “I was glad to see them step up this week,” Wells said, adding that the team is “back to where we were last season.” Wells said it was nice to grab a win at home, but there’s still a long season ahead. “We’re going to take it one game at a time,” he said.
Grand’s next game is on Aug. 31 in Spanish Fork against American Leadership Academy. The week after, the Red Devils will be back at home taking on Millard. That game will be played at 7 p.m. on Sept. 7.