These aren’t the kids who need the center stage or spotlight. They just want to get in and get to work. —Ron Dolphin, Grand assistant football coach
Note: Grand County finished with a 10-2 overall record in 2013 and was second in 2A South with a 5-1 record. It lost to South Summit 42-8 in the 2A championship.
The Grand County Red Devils had a monumental season in 2013.
They defeated rival San Juan handily (30-9) on the Broncos' field in the final game of the regular season. With a single loss in region play, they earned a No. 2 seed in the 2A state tournament. And on the stellar play of a number of seniors and juniors, they advanced through the quarterfinals and semifinals before falling to South Summit in a snowy championship game under the lights at Weber State University.
The 2014 squad looks a little different from last year's. Fortunately, the 2014 squad will benefit from the experience gained last year.
"These kids are not the all-stars who have been discussed and feared and revered. Those kids are gone now," said Ron Dolphin, assistant football coach and athletic director at Grand County. "These aren’t the kids who need the center stage or spotlight. They just want to get in and get to work."
The coach refers to his group of seniors, many of whom were major contributors in last season's playoff run, as a blue-collar group, touting their ability to dive into the trenches and get things done.
"These guys are workmen. They are going to grind it out. They are not about individual stats," he said. "This is a blue-collar group of guys that I think is going to do some good things for us this year."
One of those players is Dolphin's son, Ronnie Dolphin, a 6-foot senior who plays fullback and safety. As a junior, he averaged 4.86 yards per carry, totaled 55 yards and a touchdown on four catches, and recorded 43 tackles, a sack, and a team-best four interceptions on defense.
"He manhandles opponents," the coach said. "He is so effective — even when he is out of position."
"We have a great group of guys," Dolphin said. "This year, we have nine seniors and they will be impact players because of their ability."
The Red Devils are expecting big play from a number of juniors as well, including returning starter Dalton McElhaney, a receiver and quarterback who averaged 4.69 yards per carry and 14.89 yards per reception as a sophomore.
"Those juniors are the same kind of kids. (They) quietly go about their business," Dolphin said. "They aren’t battle-tested but I feel confident about their ability to get the job done."
Ultimately, with a combination of experience and work ethic, the Red Devils' coaches are confident the Moab-based team will have a successful season among a crowd of talented teams.
"In our division, we think it’s going to be a three-way dogfight for first and a three-way dogfight for fourth," Dolphin said, referring to 2A South. "We anticipate making another good playoff run. We’ve done that the last two years and these kids have been a part of that. They know how to get the job done. They know it’s a long season and what they’ve got to do. Their goal is to get better each and every day."
Grand County Red Devils at a glance
Coach: Dennis Wells enters his 13th season as the head coach of Grand County, where he has accumulated a career record of 62-66. Wells is a graduate of Grand County and Southern Utah University.
(5 returning starters; Spread-pistol offense)
The Red Devils lost many of their main offensive contributors from 2013, including both players who served as quarterback during the last two seasons. However, there are a handful of seniors and junior Dalton McElhaney who have been on the gridiron during the team's big playoff runs each of the last two years.
Koby Sobremesana, a utility player, is the team's top returning running back with 8.17 yards per carry a year ago. He also averaged 13.17 yards per reception last season. Tanner White is the top returning receiver with 27 yards per reception.
(6 returning starters)
Grand also returns approximately half of last year's starting defensive players with a mix of linemen and skill position players.
In addition to his play on offense, Sobremesana, listed as a receiver, defensive back, and kicker, also contributed big numbers on defense and special teams a year ago. He had 22 tackles and two interceptions as well as a field goal and 20 PATs.
White totaled 47 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks last season, while Ronnie Dolphin had 43 tackles, a sack, and a team-high four interceptions.
Coaches' Preseason 2A South straw poll: Third
Deseret News 2A South prediction: Third
Bottom line: The Red Devils must find a way to rely on their experience from the last two seasons while leaning on hard-working, blue-collar strengths of this season's roster. The biggest key will be in finding consistency on both offense and defense. While the 2014 squad could eat up a significant deficit with one big-yardage play, this Grand team will be more successful by stringing together 6- and 7-yard plays as it marches downfield.
Grand coaching history
2002-current — Dennis Wells (62-66)
1996-2001 — Ron Dolphin (21-39)
1994-1995 — Doug Thompson (13-7)
1992-1993 — Steve Hren (3-15)
1989-1991 — Doug Thompson (11-16)
1985-1988 — Bill Moore (16-19)
1983-1984 — Curtis Page (14-7)
1982 — Verplank (4-5)
1980-1981 — Bruce Burningham (5-14)
1959-1979 — Glen Richeson (134-72)
1954-1958 — Darrel Crawford (12-18)
1951-1953 — Dick Hill (8-11)
1949-1950 — Larry Palmer (12-4)
1947-1948 — K.L. Davis (7-10)
1946 – Mike McQuirk (0-4)
1944-1945 — Unknown (5-8)
1943 — Willard Devitt (2-4)
1941-1942 — Unknown (7-4)
1939-1940 — Ken Soffe (6-5)
1931-1938 — Glenn Merrill (25-14)
1930 — Joe Day (2-1)
1927-1929 — Eddie Kimball (14-5)
1925-1926 — Clem Campbell (8-4)
1921-1924 — H.B. Evans (7-5)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2005 — Tanner Brown, RB
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2013 — Jacob Francis, QB/FS
2013 — Koi Cook, RB/LB
2013 — Edgar Gomez, OL/DL
2012 — Jacob Francis, QB/DB
2012 — Koi Cook, RB/DB
2012 — Edgar Gomez, OL/DL
2011 — Kevin Ballard, LB
2010 — Billy Keddington, QB
2009 — Sam DeMars Conoly, LB
2009 — Trevor Robertson, QB/DB
2009 — Dallen Dalton, RB/LB
2008 — Tony Cossairt, OL
2007 — Gordon Garrett, QB/DB
2007 — Daniel Simpson, DL
2006 — Tanner Brown, RB
2006 — Gordon Garrett, QB/DB
2006 — Kelly VanArsdol, WR/DB
2005 — Zane Taylor, DL/OL
2005 — Tony Dalton, QB/DB
2005 — Andy Baker, OL/LB
2005 — Travis Stott, OL/DL
2005 — Cody Skiby, TE/LB
2004 — Zane Taylor, OL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.