The Sand Devils came off their bye week and began conference play last Friday night traveling to Tuba City to face the 1-4 Warriors. The Sand Devils improved their record to 5-1 after easily defeating the Warriors 66-0. This was the 22nd time the two teams have played each other and the Sand Devils have lost to the Warriors only one time, back in 2000.
During the first five games of the season Coach Mitchell Stephens has been rotating Gabe Gomez and Robert Smith at the quarterback position, but last Friday Smith was the sole quarterback after Gomez sustained a bruised meniscus and sprained NCL during practice. Coach Stephens says he expects Gomez to return to the field for this Friday’s Homecoming game.
Despite the injury to Gomez the Sand Devils benefited from their bye week. A light week of practice all
owed the team to recover from bruises and minor injuries. Makaio Warner, who has been sidelined with a torn meniscus, will start rotating back into games starting this Friday.
The Sand Devils certainly looked healthy and rested Friday night. Their offense scored on nine of its 13 possessions (their 13th possession came during the final seconds of the game when they took a knee and ran out the clock). They needed fewer than six plays on any possession to reach the endzone.
Touchdowns were scored by Robert Smith, Kele Meredith, Hayden Gracia, Dillion Anderson, Dainian Sloan and Kimball Begay.
The Sand Devils led 48-0 at half time. The second half passed quickly due to the running clock rule which only stopped during timeouts or changes of possession.
For Coach Stephens, this is one of the most challenging parts of the season. His team faced five very talented teams their first five games – defeating four of them – but now they face a streak of less-talented teams. For Coach Stephens the challenge is how to keep his team sharp and improving when few teams in their upcoming schedule can rise to their level.
“The first thing, we can’t overlook any team,” said Coach Stephens, “but if we get into the game and discover that we’re outplaying them we don’t want to play down to their level.”
During less-challenging games Coach Stephens has his team practice areas where they need to improve.
“We’ve still got to improve some of our blocking assignments as well as our passing game before we get to the playoffs, because I’m sure the teams will be keying on Meredith and load the box to stop him,” said Coach Stephens.
Robert Smith was 10 for 13 pass for 91 yards. He also had five carries for 70 yards and three touchdowns. Meredith had 13 carries for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Gracia had seven carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
Dillion Anderson had seven carries for 18 yards and one touchdown. Kimball Begay had two carries for four yards and one touchdown.
The Sand Devils return to Page this Friday for Homecoming where they’ll face the 3-3 Window Rock Fighting Scouts. Kick-off is at 6 p.m.