The Sand Devils football team has taken down some big teams this year and they took down another big one last Friday night defeating 2-1 Valley Christian, 22-15.
The Trojans are a passing team and most of its running schemes pivot off its pass attack. The Trojans had some success completing a few long passes, and some short passes to the outside but nearly every short pass their quarterback threw over the middle was knocked down by a Sand Devil defensive player.
That’s how the game began for them. They began their first drive on their own 27 yard line and their runningback immediately broke a 21 yard run bringing them to midfield. On their second play from scrimmage they tried a short pass over the middle which was tipped by Kimball Begay and intercepted by Jeremey Tallsalt.
The Sand Devils, who had won the toss and deferred to the second half, found themselves in great field position with less than a minute off the clock.
The Sand Devils, starting from their own 46 yard line were soon in the redzone after big runs from running back Kele Meredith and quarterback Gabe Gomez. Their offense stalled for a few plays on the 14 yard line, but on fourth and ten Gomez found wide receiver Justin Salabiye unguarded in the corner of the endzone. Salabiye pulled in the pass for the game’s first touchdown. Hayden Gracia ran it in on the PAT, giving the Sand Devils an early 8-0 lead.
The Trojans were forced to punt on their second drive after Begay knocked down another pass, this time on third and 20.
Again the Sand Devils found themselves starting a drive with great field position, this time from their own 45. Robert Smith came in at the quarterback position for this possession and began the drive with a four yard run, which was followed with more big yardage runs from Meredith and Gracia.
A nine yard pass to Salabiye carried them into the Redzone. On first and goal Smith carried the ball across the goal line for the Sand Devils second touchdown. He ran it in once more on the PAT to give the Sand Devils a 16-0 lead with a few ticks left in the first quarter.
The Trojans kept things interesting with a 70 yard march to the endzone. Two big passes – and a few short-yardage runs – carried them to the Sand Devils 13 yard line. They scored their first touchdown on a slant pattern to the corner of the endzone. A successful kick on the point after made the score 16-7.
The Sand Devils began their next drive on their own 14 yard line in the waning minutes of the first half. They were soon deep into Trojans territory following a 30 yard run from Meredith and a 40 yard run from Smith. They had time for one more play before the half ended and they attempted a pass into the endzone, which was knocked down by a Trojan defender as time expired.
“You’ve got to give the Trojans coach credit, he made some good adjustments at halftime” said Sand Devils head football coach Mitchell Stephens.
The Trojans defense shut down the Sand Devils offense throughout the third quarter, meanwhile their offense made it far enough into Sand Devils territory to attempt a field goal. The kick hit the uprights and bounced out. No good.
The Sand Devils would score again early in the fourth quarter on a drive that began at the end of the third quarter. The Sand Devils began their scoring drive from their own 13 yard line, with Smith once again under center.
Runs from Smith and Meredith moved the ball to the Sand Devils 45 and there Smith broke free on a run around the left side carrying it 55 yards for the Sand Devils third touchdown.
The PAT was unsuccessful. The Sand Devils led 22-7 with ten minutes left in the game.
The Trojans offense answered back with a quick touchdown of their own. On fourth and 11, and with time running out, the Trojans went for it and completed a 20 yard pass which carried them to the Sand Devils 20 yard line. On their very next play they completed a pass into the endzone. They added two more points on the PAT making the score 22-15 with 5:40 left in the game.
After Gomez was sacked the Sand Devils faced a fourth and 15 from deep in their own territory.
Coach Stephens sent in Smith in to punt and the Trojans dropped back to receive the kick, leaving wide receiver Dainian Sloan unguarded on the sideline.
Coach Smith got Smith’s attention and pointed to the unguarded Sloan, and told Sloan to be ready for a pass. Rather than punt, Smith passed the ball to Sloan for a 26 yard completion.
“It wasn’t a fake punt,” said coach Stephens. “We were going to punt, but when I saw Sloan unguarded I called an audible. Ya gotta risk it for the biscuit.”
With a new set of downs the Sand Devils ran the ball to run down the clock.
The Trojans defense prevented the Sand Devils from getting another first down but they also burned all their time-outs. The Sand Devils punted on fourth down and pinned the Trojans on their own 11 yard line.
They came out passing. The first pass was knocked down by Cheyenne Richardson. The second pass hit the ground. On third down their scrambling quarterback, unable to find an open receiver, was run out of bounds. The game ended when a host of Sand Devils sacked the Trojans quarterback on fourth down.
The final scored was Sand Devils 22, Trojans 15, bringing the Sand Devils record to 4-1.
Gabe Gomez was two for two passing for 12 yards and one touchdown. Robert Smith was two for three passing for 37 yards. He also had 11 carries for 120 yards and one touchdown, and added two points during a PAT. Kele Meredith had 15 carries for 104 yards. Hayden Gracia had five carries for 28 yards. He also had two points scored during a PAT.
Justin Salabiye had two receptions for 23 yards and one touchdown. Dainian Sloan had one reception for 26 yards.
The Sand Devils travel to Tuba City to face the 1-3 Warriors this Friday. They return home on Oct. 5, where they’ll host the Window Rock Fighting Scouts for Homecoming.