Sand Devils move to 8-1 with win over Chinle

They battle Monument Valley for 3A North championship this Friday.

The Sand Devils improved their record to 8-1 after traveling to Chinle, where they faced the Wildcats last Friday.  Both teams entered the game undefeated in 3A North sectionals. Chinle lost its first three games but since then they had won four out of five games.

Chinle started the game on offense and ran a very singular offensive attack comprised solely of a five-receiver passing game. Throughout the entirety of the game their offense came to the line with three receivers on one side and two on the other side, and no running backs in the backfield. It proved effective just one time.

The only positive thing about the Wildcats first possession was a good punt, which was fielded by the Sand Devils at their own 19 yard line, after Chinle’s first possession resulted in a three and out.

The Sand Devils offense found Robert Smith under center for the second straight week. For the rest of the season Smith has shared quarterback duties with Gabe Gomez, who was on the bench with an injured left hand (he expects to return this Friday).

In six plays, Smith and star running back Kele Meredith took turns carrying the ball down the field, getting it to the two yard line after a Meredith 42 yard gain. Runningback Hayden Gracia was given the honor of running it into the endzone on the seventh play. After an unsuccessful PAT the Sand Devils lead 6-0.

During Chinle’s second possession they managed to vault a pass over the heads of the defense and advanced the ball to the Sand Devils 30 yard line, and two plays later their quarterback found an open receiver in the endzone. Their kicker nailed the extra point which gave them a 7-6 lead. It was the only time the Sand Devils have trailed since their week Sept. 7 loss to Snowflake.

Chinle’s lead didn’t last long. The Sand Devils began their third possession from their own 21 yard line. Running designed quarterback keepers Smith advanced the ball 15 yards on his first carry, and took it the remaining 64 yards into the endzone on his second carry, to regain the Sand Devils lead. This time their PAT garnered them an additional two points, giving them a 14-7 lead.

With absolutely no running game the Sand Devils defense was not fooled by any passing schemes the Wildcats showed them and their remaining possessions resulted in punts and an interceptions by Giovanni Coulson and two pick-sixes by Dainian Sloan and Kimball Begay.  

Meanwhile, the Sand Devils offense was running in top gear needing only one to three plays to drive down the field. They led 28-7 at the end of the first quarter and 56-7 at halftime.

The two teams played with a running clock the entirety of the second half. The Sand Devils added another touchdown which came from Dillion Anderson on a kickoff return to start off the game’s third quarter.

The final score was Sand Devils 64, Wildcats 7.

The Sand Devils play Monument Valley for the 3A North Championship this Friday. Monument Valley has one loss in region play against Chinle. If they defeat the Sand Devils they’ll become 3A North champions. If Page wins they’ll become 3A North champions.

Head football coach Mitchell Stephens says his team will be keying on the Mustangs’ passing game this Friday.

“They have two pretty good athletes at the wide receiver position and their quarterback is pretty good at moving around in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield,” said coach Stephens.

Coach Stephens likes his odds at being able to do it. The Sand Devils defense leads Arizona 3A teams with interceptions.

The Sand Devils have been improving on both sides of the ball throughout the season.

“We preach getting better each week and I feel like we’re doing it,” coach Stephens said. “We have one big difference this year over last year and that is that we’re catching the ball this year.”

Throughout the season Gabe Gomez and Robert Smith have been taking turns under center but for the last two weeks that duty has fallen completely on Smith. Gomez injured his left hand a couple games ago.

“We miss him,” said coach Stephens. “He was a leader and he contributed on both sides of the ball.”

Kele Meredith had 12 carries for 251 yards and three touchdowns. He came into the game with 1,319 rushing yards and added another 247 yards against the Wildcats bringing his season total to 1,566.

Robert Smith was six for eight passing for 108 yards and two touchdowns. He also had four carries for 92 yards and a rushing touchdown. Hayden Gracia had five carries for 21 yards and two touchdowns.

Justin Salabiye had five receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown. Kimball Begay had one reception for 16 yards and a touchdown.

Dainian Sloan, Giovanni Coulson and Kimball Begay each had an interception.

The Sand Devils play their final game of the regular season this Friday against Monument Valley. It will also be senior night. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.


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