by John Unrein
Grain Valley Eagles junior defenseman Gage Levell took slow and deliberate strides towards the soccer ball during the last attempt of the penalty kick shootout. Levell’s hips centered with his final step and the placement of his right foot on the ball sent it careening with a low trajectory to the left bottom corner of the goal.
The result was an Eagles win over a conference rival in the Fort Osage Indians by a score of 6-4 on October 27th. Those in attendance on the chilly night for Grain Valley were on their feet and loud with celebration following the dramatic win.
Levell was preceded by junior midfielder Micah Siems, sophomore midfielder Owen White, sophomore midfielder Austin Schmitt, and senior forward Alex Engram in making all five penalty shots for the Eagles that secured the victory. The penalty shootout was a necessity as neither team could untie the score during the two ten minute overtime periods.
“I try to take longer on my approach to see what the goalie’s positioning is on penalty kicks. That allows me to see what side the goalie favors, and I try to bury it the opposite way. I work on penalty kicks every day after practice for this occasion in trying to be perfect,” Levell said.
“Tonight, was a dog fight with Fort Osage. They played well, but we definitely wanted it more. Our determination and will pushed me to control the ball as much as I could.”
Levell’s touch passing and timely dribbling through opponents allowed Grain Valley to keep close to equal control of the ball during the first half and limit what could have resulted in more shots on goal by Fort Osage. Grain Valley would produce 15 shots on goal during the contest to 16 by Fort Osage. The Indians lone goal would occur 29 minutes into the first half.
Sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Lampe was another difference maker for the Eagles. Lampe started the game in goal prior to being relieved by sophomore Isaac Laws. Lampe would return to relieve Laws due to him being kicked on a save attempt in the second overtime period. The penalty would result in a red card and disqualification from the contest for the Fort Osage player.
Lampe was able to save the first penalty shot attempt by Fort Osage during the shootout. Lampe went to his right upon contact with the kick and was able to get both hands on the ball and punch it away from the goal. It was Lampe’s second big save of the night with the other coming two minutes into the second half thwarting an Indians attempt on goal. Other denials on goal by Lampe would come with critical saves at the end of regulation and as time expired in the second overtime.
“Coach (Lewis) told me the guy I made the save on always goes to his left, which would be my right with the shot. I said okay, I’ll trust him and sure he enough Coach (Lewis) was correct, and I made the save,” Lampe said.
“The first half I made another save but felt like I could’ve done better. I didn’t get to the ground fast enough to stop the ball on the goal they (Fort Osage) scored (prior to overtime). I also should have talked more in giving instructions to my teammates. It does feel great to get this win though.”
Grain Valley’s other goal came during regulation on a free kick by Schmitt to forward Kade Compton who’s nifty boot of the ball found net twenty minutes into the second half. Compton’s play was part of a rotation of substitution used by Lewis to keep as many fresh players on the field as possible throughout the game. A strategy that paid dividends for Grain Valley as the game progressed.
Lewis reflected on the culminating efforts of his team’s victory after the game.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to get and review film on some of our opponents. Right footed kickers typically have a tough time opening their hips and that causes them to typically shoot to the left side of the goal. I told (Ryan) Lampe that the first guy is likely going to his left. That was fortunate and Lampe made my advice look better than it was,” Lewis said.
“Gage (Levell) is a penalty kick expert. He’s the best on this team at it and that’s why he kicks last in the lineup during a shootout. He does practice it regularly and that’s why we expect him to deliver.”
Lewis continued, “Kade Compton was originally rostered as a JV (junior varsity) player and he’s been super impressive this season, which has earned him some varsity time in recent games. His goal tonight leveled the field for us and got us into overtime.”
“Our possession of the ball also improved as the game progressed tonight. I have confidence in our mid three (midfielders). Their play created more opportunities for us up top during the second half and they kept the ball a little longer. It allowed us to get the ball to our guys in their width and whip balls towards our opponent. Luckily, we finished.”
The win moves Grain Valley to a 6-11 record. The Eagles will next be in action when they host the Truman Patriots at 6:30 pm on October 29th prior to Grain Valley playing in the Class 3, District 8 Tournament starting on November 24th.
by John Unrein
The postgame team address by Grain Valley Eagles head football coach David Allie received the loudest cheers of all following their victory over the visiting Belton Pirates by a score of 22-0 on October 23rd.
Allie informed the team they could give themselves three claps for the victory, a shutout, a share of the conference title, and for not having to come in on Saturday morning for film review of the game. The last of which drew a raucous cheer from the team, culminating with senior defensive tackle Quincy Jones jumping to his feet to come and hug coach Allie, prior to patting him on the back.
The well-earned respite for the Eagles meant that they would get to sleep in on a Saturday morning prior to returning to practice the following Monday. Such are the spoils received by the victors of games in late October high school football.
Midfield with the scoreboard in the background was the next destination for an Eagles celebration. Grain Valley’s black shirt defense wanted to commemorate their shutout. Jones and senior linebacker Hunter Newsome provided posing directions and humor to assure smiles as cameras snapped their shots.
“I feel like I’m back at one hundred percent after my shoulder injury. I have to occasionally work out the soreness, but we only have upwards to go and I’m not going to miss this. We have to keep pushing,” Jones said.
“The key to success tonight up front was to beat the offensive lineman in front of us. That limits space for the running back and frees up our linebackers to come down hill.”
Newsom added, “We were prepared tonight. We learned from last week and fixed what we needed to in practice. This was going to be a dog fight and we won the battles that we needed to.”
“Our defensive lineman did a great job of holding down blockers and that freed us up at the second level to flow freely to the football. Our challenge was to bring more energy in practice and step up the physical nature of what we do.”
“I’ve been playing with a lot of guys on this team for a long time. Tonight is great because we continue to grow as a team.”
Newsom and Jones each contributed 11 and 2 tackles respectively. They were joined by sophomore Eagle free safety Keegan Hart, who turned in a gem of a game with 4.5 tackles and 2 timely interceptions. Hart continues to get himself in the correct position during his drops while reading the quarterback. The football IQ and maturity displayed by Hart is past his years and helps to secure the last line of the Grain Valley defense.
Hart’s first interception came with 7:40 left in the second quarter. That be followed by another pick with 25 seconds left in the game. Hart successfully timed his approach and jump for the ball on both occasions.
“The pressure applied to the quarterback by our defensive line helped me be successful tonight. My coaches also have faith in me. That has allowed me to celebrate with my team and enjoy this moment,” Hart said.
“We continue to do our thing. Coach (Dominic) Giangrasso has helped me with my footwork and understanding the game as a whole.”
It was the second week in a row that Grain Valley had faced a double wing “flexbone” offense. Correct alignment, assignment, pursuit, and tackling are essential to control this type of offense. Winning one on one battles at the line of scrimmage also doesn’t hurt. The Eagles were prosperous with both, permitting the shutout against a previously undefeated Belton football team, and improving on errors from the previous week against the Raytown Blue Jays.
Offensively, the Eagles found success on the ground against the Pirates. Isolation or “Iso” runs with Newsome lead blocking for senior quarterback Cole Keller were successful, as were “G” or pulling guard sweeps to junior running back Jaxon Wyatt.
Both Keller and Wyatt had space cleared for them by the Eagles offensive line made up of starters Cooper Terry, Jack Bailey, Donovan McBride, Landen Hinton, and Connor Heitman. The quintet utilized knowing the snap count to their advantage in getting off of the football and successfully executing blocks for Eagle ball carriers. The reward was Grain Valley racking up 270 rushing yards on 46 attempts, good for a 5.9 yards per rush average.
A joyous Keller was all smiles after the game. A chorus of “congratulations, Cole” was abundant as the Eagles signal caller waited for them to die down in gathering his thoughts prior to his postgame interview. The victory helped his team secure a share of the Suburban Conference White Division title as both Grain Valley and Belton end the regular season with a 7-1 record.
“There was a lot riding on this game. We wanted a bye week (that would come with an Eagles victory entering the district playoffs). A piece of the conference championship was also on our mind with this being our first time in Class 5 (at the state level). We have 23 seniors on this team that play their hearts out every single game,” Keller said.
“We want to keep going and this win puts us in the best situation possible moving forward. I am proud of this team and we will enjoy this (moment).”
Allie was delighted with his team’s performance after the game. Especially, the play of both his offensive and defensive lines up front. The later of which helped to secure the shutout for the Eagles and limit the Belton offense to just 183 total yards of offense.
“Tonight was about us running the football and stopping them from doing so. We put forth a total team effort in this win. Guys (linemen) that are unheralded and typically don’t get a lot of love took over this game and are a big reason why we won,” Allie said.
“To be as resilient as we have been all season, including the loss last week, and to put that behind us with how we played tonight is special.”
“Tuesday, we had a good, but not great practice. Wednesday morning the captains met before school about what we can do to have more ‘juice’ and that afternoon we had an early season type practice. It allowed us to get out of the monotony of the grind that you are in at this point of the season.”
Allie concluded, “They (Belton) play a tough 3-3 Stack defense. We used motion and quarterback ‘iso’ to help us get into successful situations offensively. The bye week is huge. We will not gather rust. We will watch film and tweak what’s needed. We will be ready for the next game we get to host here.”
Grain Valley’s victory gives them the top seed in the Class 5, District 7 football playoff bracket. The Eagles will next play on November 6th at Moody Murray Stadium. Grain Valley will host the winner of Ruskin and William Chrisman who will face each other on October 30th.
The Eagles could possibly face either Raytown or Belton again as they are in the adjacent bracket and part of the Class 5, District 7 bracket along with Truman and Sedalia Smith-Cotton.
Top: Running Back Jaxon Wyatt fights for yards against the Belton defense. Bottom: Quarterback Cole Keller follows the lead block of Hunter Newsom.
Photo credit: John Overstreet
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) officials began distributing thousands of rapid COVID-19 tests this week, enabling districts to test symptomatic students and staff in 15 minutes.
Nearly 330 districts/schools applied to participate in Missouri’s BinaxNOW Antigen Testing Program for K-12 Institutions, requesting a total of nearly 583,000 test kits for use among symptomatic students and school personnel. These minimally invasive nasal swab tests must be administered by a health professional (e.g. a school nurse), and yield results in just 15 minutes. Many districts/schools will perform these rapid tests onsite, after receiving the appropriate consent from the staff member or the student’s parent/guardian. Some districts/schools have partnered with their local health department or another medical provider in their community to assist in administering these tests. Positive and negative test results will be reported electronically to the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) within 24 hours.
Grain Valley Schools Superintendent Marc Snow reported during the Board of Education’s October meeting that the district had applied for 5,000 testing kits and has 5 district nurses who can administer tests.
“The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) continues to work hard to make any and all resources available to school leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said.
“We believe these rapid antigen tests, in conjunction with other mitigation strategies, could be instrumental in helping schools provide onsite learning opportunities safely. We appreciate colleagues at DHSS and the State Emergency Management Agency for working quickly with our team on this important initiative.”
Districts/schools that applied will receive the number of test kits requested (up to one test per student and staff member, due to limited inventory) in incremental shipments over the coming months. In the state’s current inventory, there are approximately 240,000 test kits available to distribute to K-12 schools that have provided the required assurances and documentation.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services prioritized public and private K-12 schools to receive the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test kits free of charge, along with higher education institutions and long-term care facilities. Missouri is expected to receive a total of 1.84 million Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test kits.
by John Unrein
The battle of attrition did not go the way of the Grain Valley Eagles on October 16th in their loss to the Raytown Blue Jays. Raytown’s size and speed enabled them to take the lead with 5 seconds left in the game on a 23 yard touchdown run by halfback Zahmari Gary. The conclusion was as dramatic as the two proud teams that stood on the gridiron and figuratively exchanged punches throughout the course of the game.
Grain Valley was effective most of the game in limiting Raytown’s Flexbone attack. Veer option along with wingback sweeps and reverses were largely corralled by the Eagles black shirt defense. Raytown countered by getting into double tight end and unbalanced formations to run behind their impressive size along the offensive line.
Offensive tackle Logan Reichert goes 6’ 7” and 370 pounds as a sophomore for the Blue Jays. He is joined by 6’ 4” and 340 pound senior Justin Sasser at offensive guard. This tandem is who Raytown leaned on as the game progressed in using the duo to clear space at the line of scrimmage.
The front seven of the Eagles defense fought hard to create two turnovers, stop their opponent twice on 4th down, and limit the Blue Jays offense to just 21 points.
Raytown controlled the time of possession, holding on to the football for 29 minutes and 50 seconds during the game. This was fueled by the Blue Jays rushing the football for 373 yards on 61 attempts.
Eagles senior linebacker Hunter Newsom put forth a herculean effort racking up 16 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and lead blocking as a fullback when Grain Valley was on offense. A tired and composed Newsome was proud of this team and showed respect for his opponent in his postgame comments.
“We were encouraged to lay it on the line tonight by our coaches and not leave anything on the field. Especially, with the situation we are in with COVID, you never know when your last game is going to be. We played all out and played this game like it might be our last as you are never guaranteed anything,” Newsom said.
“We fought hard tonight and butted heads with them (Raytown). They had some plays though where they were able to slip free.”
Grain Valley countered offensively with the arm of quarterback Cole Keller, the legs of Jaxon Wyatt, and the receiving abilities of Parker Bosserman and Parker Stone. Keller would find Bosserman on a 33 yard fade pass down the sideline to the end zone with 10:40 left in the second quarter that would tie the game for the Eagles. Stone would be the recipient of the last successful scoring effort by Grain Valley on a 9 yard pass from Keller with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles offense under the direction of head football coach David Allie found success running isolation or “iso” during the second half to counter Raytown’s blitzing linebackers. Wyatt’s number was called running behind Newsome as he struck Blue Jay linebackers at the line of scrimmage in his lead blocking role as fullback.
Wyatt would go on to rack up 104 yards rushing on 20 attempts behind Newsome and his offensive line. Eagles senior offensive guard Jack Bailey and his counterpart, junior offensive tackle Cooper Terry, who returned from injury against Raytown were a significant part of the Eagles rushing success in the second half.
“They (Raytown) left ‘B gap’ open quite a bit and were moving their linebackers all around (their defensive front). We said to heck with it and started running ‘iso’ with success during the second half,” Bailey said.
Time, the quickness of Raytown’s defense, and their blitzing ability was not on Grain Valley’s side as they would go on to loss 21-14 against the Blue Jays.
Allie was gratified with the grit his team displayed in a losing effort. Perspective was offered by Allie to his team after the game in what they can look forward to this coming week in preparation against the Belton Pirates. Allie reminded his team that they still had influence on their playoff aspirations in how they conducted themselves in practice to make sure they were in the best possible position at the conclusion of week nine.
Allie’s sentiment was joined by defensive coordinator Pete Carpino after the game.
“You guys played in one heck of a football game tonight and came out on the wrong end. Let’s work our tails off to make sure that the next time we are in one of these games, we come out on the right end. Keep up the positive body language and hold your head up high when you leave here,” Carpino said.
Allie was honest in his postgame assessment as well as his outlook for the rest of the season.
“Raytown is fast on defense. They had success with run throughs and blitzes. We were unable to get their backside linebacker or defensive end, depending on who we blocked. Their speed would catch us from behind. They did a good job spying on Keller as well and that took him out of the game with his legs a little bit,” Allie said.
“Our defense put forth a heck of an effort tonight. Raytown got some big yards, but we got into a situation as the game progressed where we could stay ahead of the chains on defense and that helped a lot.”
“Unfortunately, a couple of times tonight we under ran some stuff on defense. They (Raytown) have some big boys that they utilized late in the game to run behind. Film will help us evaluate what we need to tweak.”
Allie concluded, “One of our kids said it best, ‘It’s only a loss if we don’t learn from it.’ We will lick our wounds and evaluate film before we turn the page. This team is a resilient group, and they understand you only get so many opportunities. We will get back to work to face another great team in Belton knowing that a share of the conference title is up for grabs that also has district implications.”
Grain Valley (7-1) will host Belton (7-0) at Moody Murray Stadium on October 23rd.
The Grain Valley School Board voted during their October 15th business meeting to extend the hybrid learning model for secondary students through the end of the first semester. In a 5-2 vote, the board approved the current plan continue through January 22, 2021. Through the hybrid model, secondary level students attend in-person classes two days per week and remotely from home three days per week. Early childhood and elementary students will continue with full in-person instruction with a 100% virtual option.
During the patron comment portion of the meeting, approximately 10 district patrons shared their opinions and personal experiences with the board. The majority of those who spoke indicated a preference to continue with the hybrid model, citing safety concerns and the positive aspects of the hybrid model (including smaller class sizes, smaller course load). Those voicing concern over the hybrid model pointed to a drop in motivation among some students, the stress parents face attempting to assist students with schoolwork while also juggling work and home responsibilities, and the lack of a consistent schedule for special education and other struggling students.
Grain Valley parent Jason Williams voiced support for the resumption of full in-person learning, pointing to concerns over the struggles special needs students experience being removed from class and related supports on a daily basis.
“I fear that years down the road, we are going to look back, and studies are going to be done, and it will show we are hurting our kids more by keeping them at home. We know the risks, but I think parents can weigh that risk and determine if they want to send their kids to school or not,” Williams said.
Grain Valley Schools Superintendent Marc Snow presented data from parent and secondary staff surveys conducted to gauge each population’s comfort with extending the hybrid model or ending it after the first quarter.
151 6th -12th grade teachers completed the survey, with 86% indicating a preference to continue with the hybrid model.
760 high school parents responded, with 51.25% stated they would prefer full in-person classes, but 25.66% of families would have their students enrolled as virtual students if only in-person and virtual were offered. This represents a potential increase of 14.83% compared to those enrolled virtually in the first quarter. 90.28% of families responding to the survey would stay with hybrid if hybrid and virtual were the only options.
At the middle school level, 771 middle school parents responded, with 59.61% of families preferring full in-person learning. 90.77% of middle school respondents would stay with hybrid or transfer from virtual to hybrid, if hybrid and virtual were the only options.
Snow pointed to fill rates for substitutes, indicating the percentage of substitutes who were able to cover staff absences reduced from 85% in mid-September to 79% the week of October 5-9.
Snow also mentioned 14 of 18 area districts reported they will continue with some version of hybrid instruction in the second quarter.
Board member Jeff Coleman made his position clear at the outset, stating he would vote against the continuation of the hybrid model. While voicing his support for the teachers and their concerns, he expressed his belief that students are “more resilient” and recover more quickly from COVID-19 than more vulnerable populations.
“We as people go out to the grocery store, we go out to eat, we do all the things that we have to do. Our parents are having to go to work,” Coleman said.
Referring to a pediatric counselor who testified before the board a few months ago, Coleman referred to the belief that “it is of greater risk not to come to school than it is to come to school with the possibility of contracting COVID. I applaud those teachers who have kids in school that are cruising along and have good successes, but not everybody is in that category,” Coleman said.
“We have to get back to some similarity of what regular life is again and as teachers, I do want to keep you safe,” Coleman said.
Citing multiple comments made by parents regarding the particular struggles of special needs students, English inquired what plans the district administration is considering to attend to their needs.
Referencing the board’s initial decision to proceed with the hybrid model at the start of the school year, English stated, “We did what we thought was the greatest good at the time. I truly believe that it is working. But I’m hearing from families here that they are hurting. There are things that are going on in their homes related to education that have them frustrated. Is there anything else that we can do as an administration and as a district to reach those kids. What can we do to reach that percent (of struggling students) that we’re not currently doing,” English asked.
“I think this is something that we need to chew on, or we’re going to find ourselves in unchartered waters again here in a few months trying to make the same decision.”
“That last question is something I asked of our cabinet earlier today,” Snow said. “What are the answers we can give to parents who say ‘my kid is struggling’. We need to continue to talk about that.”
“What I’m looking for as a board member is a plan. I want to see that strategy in writing so that I can hold that up and show it to patrons and teachers and say ‘here’s what we need to see as a group to really bring kids back to school’,” English said.
Snow provided his opinion on the best course of action before the board vote.
“I’ve never been a person who’s thrived on conflict, so I don’t like the fact that this has divided our community and our board. As Superintendent, I have tried not to make any decisions that are politically driven, and I believe my decisions need to have one thing in mind, and that is what is right for the kids. Those decisions for kids need to factor in the educational, mental, emotional, and health needs of kids. To be honest, I have had a difficult time deciding what my recommendation is going to be,” Snow said.
“As an educator, I have to believe that everyone who teaches or has taught thinks the best place for kids to be is in the classroom on a full time basis. In a perfect world, that would certainly be the case. Unfortunately, we are not currently living in a perfect world. Our world has dealt us an unfair hand to play, and in our world we have health and safety concerns that we must not disregard.”
Snow pointed to the constant upheaval staff is feeling with ongoing quarantines of staff and students, “disrupting the classroom environment”.
Snow continued, “We are barely, and I emphasize barely, keeping up with our ability to properly staff our schools. I’m concerned that doubling the number of students in our secondary school classrooms will double that impact.”
“Although it brings me no pleasure to do so, I believe the right thing to do right now is to continue with the hybrid learning model for the secondary students through at least the second quarter. That said, I do not have a vote, and that decision is ultimately up to this board,” Snow said.
The Board proceeded to approve Snow’s recommendation 5-2, with Jeff Coleman and Tisha Homfeld voting against continuing the hybrid plan.
In an email announcing the decision, the district outlined gating criteria for returning students to the classroom full-time, including:
Total new cases per 100,000 in Eastern Jackson County falling below 200. The rate is currently 215.
The Positivity rate in Eastern Jackson County trending below 10%. The positivity rate is currently at 15.05%.
In other business, Snow reported the board will consider refunding of 2016 and 2017 bonds during its November meeting, with a potential savings of $1.5 million. Snow also reported the district will receive $167,000 in funding from Jackson County through the CARES Act to offset expenses related to COVID-19, including hot spots, cleaning supplies, and bottle fillers at water fountains.
Snow reported the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is distributing rapid COVID-19 tests, enabling districts to test symptomatic students and staff in 15 minutes. The district applied for 5,000 testing kits and has 5 district nurses who can administer tests.
Dr. Brad Welle, Deputy Superintendent of Student and Community Services, reported the Grain Valley Education Foundation has raised $850,000 since 2010.
Dr. Beth Mulvey, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services, reported the board will consider middle school math curriculum during its November meeting.
The board will meet for a regular board meeting on November 19, 2020.
by John Unrein
The Eagles worked diligently to win three consecutive sets in their match versus Fort Osage on October 12th. Scores of 25-12, 25-11, and 25-11 propelled Grain Valley to victory in the Suburban Conference matchup. The Eagles improved to a 12-7-3 overall season record in defending their home court.
Strong net defense by Grain Valley junior Kellie Overturf, well placed serves by senior Clara Gower, and hard hit spikes by junior Olivia Williams was the recipe used for success. The Eagles were able to hold serve several times throughout the evening along with putting together a string of scoring consecutive points.
“I think serving consistently promotes success. You can’t lose points if you get the serve over net. Years of practice and listening to coaching helps,” Gower said.
Overturf added, “I like to be defensive at the net because it helps my team win. Making a play gets the crowd excited and that motivates me.”
Williams finished, “Watching the ball at all times and adjusting to it while noticing where the open spots are on the other side of the net is my focus.”
The trio feels prepared and looks forward to the Grain Valley Spike Tournament upcoming on October 17th. A sentiment shared by Eagles head volleyball coach Tori Squiers.
Watching film prior to the match against Fort Osage and having already played against them previously this season is what Squiers attributed to her team’s victory.
“Being in your home gym is an advantage. Our first set tonight provided us the confidence needed to continue that momentum into the next two sets,” Squiers said.
“I have Clara (Gower) serve first for a reason. She always starts out strong and plays the back row well also. There’s a reason why she’s our team captain.”
“Kellie (Overturf) and Olivia (Williams) play strong at the net. They work well together and always have a sense of what the other is doing. Both enjoy finishing an attack or denying an advance by the opponent.”
Squiers continued, “I am excited about the growth of this team at this point in the season.”
by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles Cross Country program is fresh off their impressive Suburban Conference victory in which they placed six runners among the top seven finishers. Individual meet champion Ella Casey was joined by Annalynn Earley (2nd), Lilly Ogle (4th), Valerie Holcomb (5th), Lexie Nicholson (6th), and Kayley Bell (7th) in earning 1st Team All-Conference Honors.
Lady Eagles Head Cross Country coach Nick Small is pleased with the buy in to the program he has received from the team. The hash tag used by the Cross Country program on social media this season has been “#more than running.” Small has encouraged this mantra as a reminder to his team to be successful in the classroom, conducting community service, and doing the little things needed to be a better competitor.
“I really feel like this crew in general has been willing to fight together in a sport that can be very individual oriented. The success we have experienced is through being a team,” Small said.
The Eagles have a two and half week stretch ahead of them where they will compete sparingly prior to the Class 5, District 5 meet at the end of October in Jefferson City. There have been a fewer number of meets this season on the calendar. A change that Small embraces and one that has caused programs and coaches to reevaluate their training regimen. Less racing across the nation has led to less demand on the body (due to the volume of training) and there are more personal records being set in the sport of cross country.
“I often say there a thousand ways to skin a cat when it comes to training. Over the years we have tweaked stuff. In general, we start in the summer with adding distance to their runs in getting their anerobic capacity built up. Then, as we move through season, we look to add intensity (speed work) as we decrease load (mileage),” Small said.
“The last couple of weeks have been the highest combination of load and intensity both. Their legs are starting to feel that a little bit. As we approach districts and prepare for state though, we are going to reduce load and intensity for what is referred to as a tapper effect.”
“Varying the stressors makes the body continue to adapt for continued growth in performance. Hopefully, if we do it right, those various stressors culminate in success.”
Small struggled to find just one runner who has exemplified leadership and exceeded expectations this season. Seniors Annalynn Earley and Lilly Ogle have seen their times shrink this season through courses that Small characterizes as going from easy to hard in progression.
Small added, “It’s been impressive to watch Annalynn and Lilly run this season. We talk about a ‘switch going on’ with the mental side of running. They have figured out that switch. It is the difference between surviving a race and attacking a race.”
Valley News asked both Earley and Ogle six spotlight questions in an effort for the community to get to know them better as student athletes.
1. What sets Grain Valley Cross County across from other programs?
Earley: “The people on this team. We hang out with each other outside of school and our sport. This group collectively likes hard work.”
Ogle: “We create a family atmosphere.”
2. Any unique pre-meet rituals?
Earley: “Our food tradition the night before a race.”
Ogle: “In the past we have done ice baths. That hasn’t happened this year because of COVID. We always look forward to the pasta dinners the night before a meet so that we can load up on carbs.”
3. What is the strangest thing you’ve seen happen during a race?
Earley: “One of the girls on my team lost her shoe during the first 800 meters of a race and ran the entire way with one shoe.”
Ogle: “That’s a hard one to pick just one thing.”
4. Who is your role model?
Earley: “Definitely my Dad. He’s a cross country coach at Fort Osage. He’s had me running since I was little.”
Olge: “My Mom is a positive person who is full of encouragement. She has pushes me to focus on positive things and not dwell on the negative.”
5. If you could run with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Earley: “I would run with my Grandma. She was never an athlete. She wanted to do sports in high school, but they didn’t have cross country for girls when she was younger. It would be cool to run with her.”
Ogle: “A famous singer who could sing to you the whole run and make it go buy faster. Some throwback Miley Cyrus like ‘The Climb’ would be good.”
6. What do you love most about running and competing?
Earley: “I like the team aspect of our sport. It’s good to know that I’m hurting for someone other than just myself. Getting to talk and laugh with those around me is fun.”
Ogle: “The way you feel after a successful race is a crazy feeling you don’t understand until you do it. People ask, ‘why do you like running?’ I tell them if you can do this, and get through it, you have an honest sense of accomplishment you can’t get any other way.”
by John Unrein
Grain Valley’s impressive 53-22 win over the visiting William Chrisman Bears on October 9th made a big statement. The Eagles kept their undefeated record intact by improving to 7-0. The continued streak of scoring at least 30 points a game also persists for Grain Valley. There was no homecoming week letdown or senior night jitters.
The biggest statement made was by Grain Valley’s coaching staff. Football is a game of adjustments. For the second week in a row, a Suburban Conference opponent tried to take away what the Eagles do best on offense.
The Bears came out in a 33 split front on defense. Putting both their defensive tackles on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard was done to limit the Eagle’s “down” rushing play (off-tackle trap with a backside pulling guard). The idea being that having a defensive tackle in both “B gaps” where the Eagles wanted to run would restrict their ability to move the football on the ground.
The previous week had witnessed the Fort Osage Indians pinch (cross the face of the offensive tackle or tight end) their defensive ends into “B gaps” in an effort to do the same thing. Five and six weeks into the football season, opponents had game planned ways outside the norm of their defensive scheme to be successful against Grain Valley. The desired results were not realized.
Eagles head football coach David Allie adjusted to William Chrisman’s defensive alignment with a myriad of formidable responses on offense. Grain Valley would turn to running option, quarterback boot, fullback dive, play action slant passes off of dive, fade passes, slot receiver sweeps and reverses off of orb motion, and getting into double tight end formations (which creates 8 gaps to defend at the line of scrimmage) that limited where the Bears defensive lineman could line up for good measure.
Having the needed alternatives in the Eagles’ offense produced 422 total yards on 45 plays, good for a 9.4 yard per play average.
William Chrisman’s 33 split front on defense meant that both of their inside linebackers where aligned in “A gap” on either side of the Eagles center. This meant a greater distance for both linebackers to travel in getting to the outside edge of the defense against options, quarterback boots, and sweeps. Furthermore, it meant having to come downhill to fill when Grain Valley ran dive with no defensive tackle directly in front of them to block the path of oncoming offensive linemen.
A further consequence of the Bears having to respect inside handoffs was a large chasm opening up where the linebackers use to be prior to the snap of the football. This space was filled by Eagle slot receivers running slant patterns into the area after the handoff fake executed by quarterback Cole Keller. Allie would call this play three times on an Eagles scoring drive during the third quarter.
“We’ve seen a lot of odd front defenses over the last five weeks. They (William Chrisman) came out in an even front with a stem (moving defensive tackles into a 33 split just prior to the snap) and we went three and out on our first drive. Now, we did not execute as well as we should’ve on that first drive either,” Allie said.
“Then we got into double tight end formation, they didn’t stem. They started loading the box and we went outside with the football. We also tried to exploit the coverages they presented us with successful routes we ran.”
Keeping a team’s focus at a high level is a hard enough challenge through a typical season. Allie and his staff have been able to do so with huge a return thus far. Focusing on what is important is what Allie attributes to the result.
“We always try to find the silver lining with the cloud that’s above us with COVID-19. This team knows that they are not guaranteed another game or practice. I think that has done as much as anything to keep their focus. Hat’s off to our kids for not being anxious or trying to force stuff,” Allie said.
“Things can get stale when get into week seven of the season. We adjusted our practice schedule a little this week by cutting one day short and another by watching a middle school football game. That helps to keep the legs fresh.”
Allie concluded, “This is a tight group. The victory for the seniors tonight is special. The kids will remember this game for a long time.”
An example of the Eagles being a tight knit team is the chemistry between Keller and wide receiver Parker Bosserman. Both speak highly of one another and have accepted their roles on the team as Keller returned from injury as the Eagles signal caller heading into this season, a role that Bosserman filled at the completion of the 2019 season.
“Cole (Keller) does a good job from the snap on reading where to go with the football. He puts it in a place where I can get it and my job is to finish the completion by reeling it in,” Bosserman said.
Keller added, “I got guys that will catch the ball and guys that will block. When you have so many weapons around you it makes it easy to have the nights we have. The three touchdown passes I threw through the air tonight are because we have guys who don’t drop passes.”
“All I did this summer was work on my footwork to improve my accuracy. I knew this offense was full of guys who could go get the football and I wanted to make sure I could get it to them. I have improved throwing the football, but you are always sharpening in looking to get better.”
Keller would go on to rack up 144 passing yards and 3 touchdowns through the air. Keller would further pad his stat line with 99 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. Bosserman would complement Keller’s work by hauling in four receptions for 55 yards and 2 touchdowns to go along with 2 rushes for 32 yards on the ground.
Homecoming king and offensive guard Jack Bailey worked well with a new partner in crime at right tackle filling in for the injured Cooper Terry. Junior Brycen Crandall teamed with Bailey in making several key blocks for the Eagles. Perhaps none bigger than Crandall’s block of a William Chrisman linebacker on the opening play of the second half that sprung running back Jaxon Wyatt for an 80 yard touchdown run.
Bailey was all smiles and humility with his post-game comments.
“It’s a blessing to get recognized by the student body in being homecoming king. I love this school and Grain Valley.”
“The communication between Brycen (Crandall) and I helped with our success tonight in rushing the football. We kept things simple in discussing who we block prior to the snap each play. We had a lot of fun.”
Defensively, the Eagles were happy to see the return of defensive tackle Quincy Jones. The 6’ 1’’ 280 pound senior wasted little time in picking up where he had left off previously. Jones would contribute 1.5 tackles and a sack in his team’s winning effort.
Linebacker Hunter Newsom continued his streak of being the Eagles leading tackler with 11 tackles, including one tackle for loss. Newsom was joined by fellow linebackers Jayden Jacobson and Zach Kirk in trying to stop Bears running back DaShawn Shannon.
William Chrisman would lean on sweeps to Shannon with two pulling guards as the staple of their offense. Shannon would compile 132 yards on the ground and one rushing touchdown.
Jacobson sought to keep Shannon pinned in with maintaining outside leverage and forcing runs back to the inside. A timely interception with 26 seconds left in the third quarter by Jacobson stymied William Chrisman’s attempt to build second half momentum.
Eagles defensive end Donovan McBride provided a consistent pass rush for his team against the Bears. His endeavors yielded a second quarter sack of William Chrisman quarterback Dayne Herl with 15 seconds left prior to halftime. McBride has accepted and excelled in his role of moving to defensive end on passing downs this season.
“Third and long is not rocket science. What are teams going to do but pass the football. Especially, when they have no time outs left heading into the half,” McBride said.
“I have enjoyed the move to defensive end. When you play on the inside, you get a lot of double teams. So when I’m on the edge, I should win those because they are one on one matchups.”
The Eagles (7-0) have their work cut out for them as they travel to Raytown (4-3) in a matchup against the Blue Jays on October 16th. Raytown has possessed daunting size and speed in recent years under the direction of head coach Logan Minnick. Grain Valley will look to continue to make a statement against Suburban Conference foes.
Above: Eagles defense pens in William Chrisman ball carrier.
Below: Parker Bosserman finds the end zone from Keller pass.
Photo credit: John Overstreet
Jack Bailey and Abby Castle were named Homecoming King and Queen during a halftime ceremony on October 9th.
The Eagles would go on to defeat the William Chrisman Bears 53-22.
See page 9 of this week’s edition for a summary of the game.
The Grain Valley Marching Eagles (GVME) had quite a 2020 season planned, with a full slate of Friday night football games, weekend competitions, and a December trip to Hawaii to perform at Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, those plans were canceled due to COVID-19, but the band soldiered on.
Students gathered for band camp this summer, preparing for a show they hoped to perform in the fall. Restrictions regarding gatherings of large groups once again dashed those plans, but staff improvised, creating two entirely new shows to allow students an opportunity to perform safely.
Students were able to perform to socially distanced family and friends at the high school stadium on Saturday, October 10th. Brass and wind students performed a show entitled “Brave New World”, and the percussion and color guard performed a show entitled “Coming and Going”. Each performance was met with rousing applause from the stands.
Band Director Travis Barzee said the students and staff embraced a positive attitude, which has helped them endure constant changes this season.
“The band has approached the season with an unmistakably strong and positive attitude. It seemed like there was a period of time where I would be forced to give some type of bad news to the students and staff weekly and sometimes daily, but their ungarnished drive and passion for marching band has proven bulletproof,” Barzee said.
“I'm most proud of the work ethic and ‘buy-in’ from the students, and specifically our student leadership team. The positive attitude in which they have approached this challenging year is very encouraging for both the future of the GVME and their individual futures. I'm looking forward to building upon the successes of this season and continuing to challenge and push the GVME to new and unchartered territory next season.”
The band will perform for parents and friends again Thursday, October 15th and Saturday, October 17th at the high school. The school’s performance will be included along with other bands across the country in a Bands of America streaming event. A link to view the band’s performance will be shared by GVME following the performances for those who were unable to attend.