The Sand Devils closed their last game of the regular season against the Monument Valley Mustangs with a 3A North regional trophy hoisted into the October sky.
It was the second year in a row the Sand Devils finished the regular season as 3A North champs.
They defeated the Mustangs 54-0. They finished the season ranked fourth in the state, and they set a new school record for the most points scored during the regular season.
Fifty seconds into the game the Sand Devils’ star running back Kele Meredith ran in the game’s first touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion carried in by quarterback Robert Smith.
The Mustangs went to their running game on their first possession but couldn’t get past the Sand Devil’s defense. Their quarterback fell beneath the crushing pain of a Cheyenne Richardson sack.
Punt. Sand Devils ball.
With 8:15 on the clock Justin Salabiye brought in the Sand Devils second touchdown. They led 14-09 after a failed PAT.
The Mustangs again went three and out.
The Sand Devils took possession at midfield but their drive ended in a Hayden Gracia fumble. The Mustangs, starting in pretty good field position, backed themselves up with false start penalties. Their drive ultimately ended with a Sand Devils sack for a safety.
The Sand Devils began their next drive from their own 31 yard line and crushed it down the field in gulps of ten yards or more. The next touchdown came on a designed quarterback keeper with a fake hand-off to Meredith. Robert Smith scampered in for the touchdown. Makaio Warner added two more points on the PAT.
The Mustangs’ next possession also ended with a three and out as the clock wound down in the first quarter, with the Devils leading 22 -0.
During the second quarter the Mustangs began to feel the heat of the zero burning a hole on the scoreboard but didn’t have the offense to do anything about it.
During the second quarter the Sand Devils’ offense continued to show their on-field dominance moving the ball toward the end zone in plays exceeding ten yards. On the fifth carry Smith passed the ball to Gracia from the Mustangs’ 29 yard line. He deflected and fended off several tackles to make his way to the five yard line.
Two plays later Smith carried the ball into the end zone. The two point attempt fell incomplete. The Sand Devils led 28 – 0 with 5:54 left in the first half.
The Sand Devils mighty defense forced the Mustangs to punt yet again. They took possession deep inside their own side of the field. After a 17 yard Gracia run, with additional yardage added for a facemask, the Sand Devils were again deep inside Mustangs’ territory. And there Smith spotted Warner who was left wide open. Warner caught the pass and went into the end zone for another six points. Smith ran in the two-point conversion for a score of 36-0 at the half.
After a productive first half this year’s Sand Devils were perched on the threshold of breaking the school record for most points scored in the regular season, which was 416 points, set back in 1974.
The Mustangs’ first possession of the second half again proved unproductive, ending in another three and out. After a long punt, followed by a Sand Devils penalty, the offense found itself on their own one yard line. A run from Smith advanced the ball to the ten yard line. He followed it up on the the next play with a 90 yard run for a touchdown which also broke the school’s record. After a missed PAT the Sand Devils led 42-0.
The Sand Devils defense again stopped the Mustangs, with their backs against their own endzone. The Mustangs punted again, and the Sand Devil’s began their next drive on their own 41 yard line. On the drive’s fourth play Meredith ran it to the end zone to score the touchdown that raised the bar on the school record.
The two point conversion was completed by Andrew Curley and brought the score to 52 – 0 at the end of the third quarter.
The Mustangs beleaguered offense couldn’t find any chinks the the armor of the Sand Devils defense. After an unsuccessful running attack they moved to their passing game with equally dismal results. Their first possession of the fourth quarter resulted in an interception by Jackson Tsinnijinnie who ran the ball down the sideline to the Mustangs 31 yard line.
The game ended with the Sand Devils defense pushing the Mustangs back and back finally sacking their quarterback in the endzone, where he fumbled the ball. An alert Sand Devil jumped on the loose ball for the regular season’s final touchdown.
The final score was Sand Devils 54, Mustangs 0. The record for the most points was recorded at 434 when the game came to a close.
The Sand Devils finish out the regular season ranked 4th in state. Their overall record is 9-1 with an undefeated 3A regional record. Their only loss came from the Snowflake Lobos who are also in the playoffs ranked no. 3.
The Lobos are in the opposite bracket. If both the Lobos and Sand Devils win throughout the playoffs they’ll play each other for the 3A trophy on Nov. 23.
The Sand Devils defense continues to look very impressive. They’ve allowed just two touchdowns in the last four games.
Meredith currently holds the number one spot for the most touchdowns this season (19) in ten games in 3A North region followed by Smith (6), Salibiye (7) and Gracia (8), who currently are in the top ten with 8 touchdowns each.
Head Coach Mitchell Stephens says they will have to work on their penalties and fumbles, something his team did too frequently in their game against Monument Valley.
“The teams we will be playing will be good teams for them to have made it to the playoffs, so we’re not done,” he said. “We get better and better everyday and we have to fight the fight. We got to win a state championship.”
He adds that he is happy that they set the new season high point record but will be adding to the record during the playoffs next month.
The Sand Devils move on to the 3A North Conference playoffs this Friday. They will host number 13 Pusch Ridge Lions from Tucson.
Coach Stephens says he and his coaching staff have looked at film of the Lions and he’s confident his team will be victorious this Friday night.
“Their offense is heavy on the run,” he said. “They have a pretty good option game.”
Pusch Ridge played in the championship game last year, but also graduated a lot of seniors and are playing with a young team this year.
Kele Meredith had six carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns. He also had one reception for 65 and another touchdown. Hayden Gracia had nine carries for 94 yards. Dillion Anderson had six carries for 40 yards.
Justin Salabiye had three receptions for 39 yards and one touchdown. Makaio Warner had two receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Kickoff against the Lions is this Friday at 7 p.m. at the Page High stadium.