by Michael Smith
It might have been 27 degrees outside, but that didn’t stop the Grain Valley football team from giving head coach David Allie an early shower.
The Eagle players dumped a water cooler full of ice on top of Allie following a dominant defensive performance in a 43-0 rout of Raytown Friday at Moody Murray Memorial Field in the Class 5 District 7 championship game.
There was a good reason to celebrate as Grain Valley won its eighth consecutive game this season and its fourth straight district title.
After a lock room meeting, the players carried Allie outside in a manner that resembled crowd surfing at a concert.
“I don’t have a voice left, it’s pretty hard to talk,” Allie said. “This team is a fun group to be around. It’s fun to celebrate with them. They played their tails off tonight. I don’t mind having fun like that.”
Added junior linebacker Cole Elliott: “That was awesome. I bet he can’t wait to get inside and get warm.”
And the celebration was thanks to yet another dominant defensive performance in which the Eagles held Raytown to just 110 total yards. Coming in, Raytown was averaging 35.1 points per game and scored 49 in the district semifinals against Raytown South.
In this one, the Eagles were so dominant, the Blue Jays didn’t cross midfield until the final play of the game when Raytown quarterback Nate Whitebear made it to the Grain Valley 47 on a 32-yard run. On the play, the ball was snapped just tenths of a second before time expired.
“We felt like we were a little conservative last time we played them,” Grain Valley head coach David Allie said, referring to a 28-14 regular season win over Raytown. “We opened a couple things up in the scheme. Coach (defensive coordinator Matt Curts) and the defensive guys did a tremendous job.”
That defensive performance included a pair of interceptions that set up touchdowns. Sophomore Aiden Woodrome intercepted a tipped pass from Whitebear and returned the ball to the Raytown 15. That set up senior quarterback Caleb Larson’s 15-yard rushing touchdown that gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter.
“That was amazing. That was the best part of the night for me,” Woodrome said. “I got back into my drop, I saw the ball get deflected and I was just in the right place at the right time.”
That score was sandwiched by senior Austin Schmitt’s field goals of 21 and 33. With the Eagles up 13-0, Raytown went for it on fourth-and-2 from its own 23-yard line. The Grain Valley defense stuffed Whitebear for a 1-yard loss to set up a short field at the 22.
“We knew their quarterback was a pretty good player and our goal was to lock down their best player,” said senior linebacker Brody Baker, who also made a rare appearance on offense with three carries for 14 yards. “We contained him all game. That was our game plan and we stuck to it.”
The Eagles capitalized a few plays later when sophomore running back DJ Harris got into the end zone from 11 yards out on a trap run to put the Eagles up 20-0 with 3:22 left in the first half.
On Raytown’s next drive, Grain Valley junior Cole Elliott made the most impressive defensive play of the game. Whitebear tried to throw a 5-yard out, but Elliott leaped backward and made a one-handed interception to set up the Eagles at the Raytown 31.
“I have been making plays like that in practice and I have been just waiting for my opportunity,” Elliott said. “I snagged it and that was pretty awesome.”
“We wanted it really bad. The coaches had a great game plan for us.”
Harris later punched it in from 25 yards out on an outside run to the left, which made it 27-0 with 36 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Eagles later put up 17 points in the fourth quarter as Larson scored on a 39-yard scamper and Schmitt made a 25-yard field goal. Their last score came with less than two minutes left when the backup offense was in. Junior running back Brandon Lanear punched it in from one yard out for his first varsity score.
“That’s pretty special for (Lanear). I am really happy for him,” said Larson, who had 107 yards on 17 carries. “I like when the young guys get in and get a chance to play. It means a lot to me and it means a lot to them, too. I was in his shoes once, too.”
Grain Valley will now turn its attention to Fort Osage as the Eagles will be on the road next Friday in the Class 5 state quarterfinals. The Indians defeated the Eagles in the season opener 33-14 and knocked them out of the playoffs last season in the quarterfinals following a 35-0 win.
“It’s not often you get a second chance,” Allie said. “We are ready for them and they are ready for us. It should be a great game.”
The Eagles stingy defense at work. Photo credit: John Overstreet
Quarterback Caleb Larson takes it in for the touchdown. Photo credit: John Overstreet
Grain Valley junior Cole Elliott made the most impressive defensive play of the game. Whitebear tried to throw a 5-yard out, but Elliott leaped backward and made a one-handed interception to set up the Eagles at the Raytown 31. Photo credit: John Overstreet