By Nathaniel Smith • The Times-Independent
The Grand County High School football team suffered defeat at the hands of the Millard Eagles in a nail-biting defensive showdown on Sept. 7. A few costly turnovers and penalties at inopportune moments hurt the Red Devils down the stretch as Millard was able to squeak by with a score of 20-19, claiming victory by the slimmest of margins.
Millard kicked off to start the game and Grand’s offense got right to work. Solid runs from junior quarterback Bryant Troutt, senior Corbin Arbon and senior Trent Elmore brought the Red Devils inside the red zone. Grand looked poised to score when an errant pass from Troutt was intercepted near the goal line.
The Eagles were unable to get any forward momentum on offense and punted the ball back to Grand after going three and out. A fair catch near midfield gave the Red Devils good field position for the next drive.
After Troutt fought up the middle for first down on third and three, a dropped pass and a couple short runs gave the Red Devils fourth down with four yards to go. Grand went for it, but Millard picked off another pass from Troutt and ran it to Grand’s 38-yard line before junior Brayden Cloud made a touchdown saving tackle.
Working with a short field, the Eagle offense scored on a pass after just a handful of plays. Millard then lined up to go for two, which they were able to convert with another pass from junior quarterback Brooks Myers.
Cloud returned the kick to about the 24-yard line, and Grand’s offense took the field eager to level the score. On the first set of downs on the drive, the Red Devils were faced with fourth down and less than a yard in their own territory. Grand ran a handoff to Arbon, who pushed past the first-down marker to keep the chains moving as the first quarter drew to a close.
A pair of flags on Millard – roughing the quarterback and a facemask – moved the ball onto the Eagles’ side of the field. Senior Stacy Randall caught a nine-yard pass then Troutt ran for a first down. A reverse to Arbon brought the Red Devils within the 20-yard line. Elmore tore off about 13 yards, nearly scoring as he was stopped just short on the one-yard line. A good push from the offensive line allowed Troutt to leap over his blockers for the score. Sophomore Dante Wells nailed the extra point to bring the score to 7-8.
Millard drove down the field and threatened to score, but Wells intercepted a pass near the end zone. He gained good yardage after the pick, but an illegal blocking flag cancelled out the return and forced the Red Devils to start from their own five-yard line. A great run from Arbon on third down brought the Red Devils out of the shadow of their own end zone, but they were unable to keep the ball moving and had to punt.
Grand’s defense stopped Millard on three straight plays and forced another punt. A personal foul during a dead ball set the Red Devils back ten yards and stifled their drive. A deep punt from Wells was returned to Millard’s 30-yard line with less than two minutes left in the first half. A few big pass plays helped the Eagles march down the field. With only 23 seconds remaining, a false start penalty left Millard faced with third and goal from the 13-yard line. Grand tipped Myers’s pass, but Millard was able to hang on for the score. The Eagles missed the point-after attempt leaving the score at 7-14 as the teams went into the locker rooms for halftime.
Millard started the third quarter with the ball. Senior Jarett Reidhead came up with a big sack to stall Millard’s drive before it could get moving. No return on Millard’s punt left the Red Devils starting at their own 17-yard line. Grand was unable to move the ball and had to punt after going three and out.
The Eagles began their next drive around midfield but were unable to take advantage of the good field position. A dropped pass on fourth down returned possession to the Red Devils.
Millard’s defense remained tough, but a few clutch plays from the Red Devils kept the ball moving downfield. Troutt busted up the middle for a first down on third and long; later Arbon ripped off a big chunk of yards to convert on fourth down. Elmore capped off the drive with a 21-yard touchdown run. Grand was unable to tie the game when the extra point kick was blocked.
Junior Morgan Alvey sacked Millard’s quarterback for a huge loss to end the third quarter. The Eagles started the final quarter forced to throw on third down with 20 yards to go, and heavy pressure in the backfield resulted in an incomplete pass. An intentional grounding flag on the play forced Millard back even farther. A punt gave the Red Devils the ball at midfield.
Grand pushed into Millard’s territory, but a holding penalty set the offense back ten yards. Troutt’s pass on second and twenty was intercepted by the Eagles. Millard used the untimely turnover to score another touchdown. The snap on the extra point kick was fumbled, which left the score at 13-20 with 7:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.
A touchback on the kickoff gave Grand the ball at the 20-yard line. A couple pass plays and a relentless running game that used a range of ball carriers kept Grand’s offense chugging toward the end zone. Troutt punched the ball in on an 11-yard run to bring the Red Devils within a single point. Instead of trying to tie the game, Grand went for a two-point conversion. Troutt charged up the middle, but he was stopped barely short of the goal. Grand kicked off to Millard with 2:51 left on the clock.
Millard chewed up the clock with running plays, forcing Grand to burn two timeouts. The Eagles lined up for third and ten with just under two minutes remaining. Millard ran a play action pass that was broken up by the Red Devil defense. However, any celebration was cut short when a yellow flag appeared on the field. The controversial pass interference call drew the crowd’s ire and gave Millard a new set of downs. Grand only had a single timeout remaining, which allowed the Eagles to run out the clock.
Millard, claiming its second one-point victory of the season, remains undefeated this season. Grand’s record moves to 2-2 following the narrow loss. For homecoming, the Red Devils will face South Sevier on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.