by John Unrein
Former University of North Carolina Head Basketball Coach Dean Smith is credited with saying, “There are two important things to do when teaching basketball, praise behavior that you want repeated and knowing what to do with a mistake. You should recognize a mistake, admit it, learn from it, and forget it.”
High school summer basketball camps like the one held at Grain Valley High School the week of July 20th allow coaches to offer affirmation of positive actions on the court as well as constructive questions and criticism that provide growth. Sneakers were squeaking on the hardwood and nets were swishing as the Eagles boys’ basketball team worked on offensive and defensive basketball fundamentals.
Floor spacing and passing angle sessions for competitive points was part of the menu of drills directed by Eagles Head Boys Basketball Coach Andy Herbert. The benefits of floor spacing in basketball have become paramount from the professional level of the National Basketball Association all the way down to the high school ranks.
By an offense using good spacing in basketball, the defense must cover more territory and has a harder time giving help when recovering to get back to their man or space on the floor they are to defend. Teams who efficiently use floor spacing and motion like the Eagles in their offense are a headache for opposing teams. Defenses must be well conditioned to face the five stressful elements that good floor spacing creates.
Basketball Coaches Clipboard online breaks down the strain that terrific floor spacing in motion offenses creates for opposing defenses.
First, spacing makes it harder to defend against dribble penetration as the help defenders have further distance to cover when coming off their man. Consequently, spacing makes it harder to defend perimeter shooters, as the help side defender in the paint has more distance to cover in getting back to the shooter.
Next, spacing makes it harder to defend post players. Teams that double team the low post will have a more difficult time when players are spaced apart. Good spacing also allows for hi-low passing from one post player to another when players are spread out across the arc.
Effective floor spacing also makes it harder to defend cutters maneuvering towards the basket. Lastly, excellent floor spacing makes it harder for a defense to deny passing lanes.
Herbert takes a cerebral approach with his players during practice to reinforce understanding so that playing efficiency gets better. A lesson that gives players a breather as well as connecting the mental aspect of the game with the kinesthetic.
“Why did you guys win that set? Correct, offensive rebounding. Don’t watch the ball, find a body and get position. You have to be in constant motion when we space the floor. Trust your eyes and compete for the ball if it doesn’t go in,” Herbert said.
“If you are the first guy coming off the back screen or flare, you have to move. The ball being dribbled should not interfere with or be in the way of other movement. Also, with spacing we cannot get caught in no man’s land. Get to your landmarks so that we have options and the defense is stretched.”
Two returning varsity players paying close attention to Herbert’s instructions at camp are seniors Keeton Maxon and John Haywood. Maxon is getting reps in the low post at camp, while Haywood is running the point for the Eagles, a role that got Haywood more playing time in late last season with the Eagles.
“I have enjoyed getting up early and knowing I’m going to get to play basketball with all my friends,” Haywood said.
“I miss my older teammates as well. It’s weird being in here without them. No more Caden (Matlon), Josh (Kilpatrick), or AJ (Salisbury). I’m one of the old guys now.”
“Ball fakes, familiarizing myself with offensive sets, and learning how to become more comfortable in the paint have been what I’ve tried to work on the most this week at camp.”
Haywood concluded, “Defensively, we need to work on closing out better when an opponent drives on us. No easy shots should be allowed against us.”
Maxon offered his assessment as well on the week of work put in at camp.
“Competing and getting to see everyone again has been special. I have missed the chance to compete and get better,” Maxon said.
“Knowing the offense and executing it better has led to more open shots for me. Using my post presence to make better passes has also been an emphasis.”
Maxon continued, “Talking more on defense has allowed us to defeat screens better. Knowing our defensive assignment whether we are on the ball or the help side is assisting us in limiting more shots. That will be important to carry into the season.”
by John Unrein
The evolution of moving the football down the field has changed dramatically over the last 70 years. Especially, since 1980. Statista online reveals that the average passing yards per National Football League game from 1970 to 1979 was 156 yards per game. The rushing average per game in the NFL during the same decade was 139 yards per game.
Fast forward to the recently completed decade (2010-2019) and passing yards per game in the NFL have increased significantly while rushing yards have declined moderately. From 2010 to 2019 the average passing yards per game in the NFL grew to 234 yards. An increase of 78 yards per game over the 1970’s. Concurrently, the average rushing yards per game in the NFL from 2010 to 2019 was 113 yards a game. A mild drop of 26 yards per game.
The Kansas City Chiefs averaged 379 yards and 28 points per game during the regular season in route to their Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers. This permitted the Chiefs to rank sixth in total yards (6,067) in the NFL during the 2019 season. The Chiefs run a West Coast Spread Offense. Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid has overseen the progression of this offense grow from his assistant coaching days with the Green Bay Packers through head coaching stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.
It is easy to pontificate as to why these offensive statistics have migrated in the direction they have. Quarterbacks are protected now more than they ever have been in football. Rules favor the offense regarding pass interference and defensive holding penalties. Practice time in pads has been reduced for player safety that lessens the amount of time offensive lineman get to practice the physicality of run blocking fundamentals. The list goes on.
One element that should not be overlooked that helps explain the point explosion and offensive growth in the passing game of football is the spread offense. A football field is 160 feet or 53 and 1/3 yards wide and 300 feet or 100 yards between goal lines. That is a tremendous amount of space for a defense to have cover horizontally and vertically on the field.
The implementation of three, four, and five wide receiver offensive formations pulls defenders out of the tackle box (the area on the line of scrimmage between the offensive tackles). Spread formations also permit offensive coaches to align players against defenders creating favorable matchups that can be exploited. Not to mention, the running lanes created for the offense in the way the defense adjusts to cover receivers.
This often leads to quarterbacks and coaches at all levels of football doing simple math prior to the snap. It comes down to counting the number of defenders inside and outside of the tackle box. A quarterback or the offensive coordinator from the sideline may audible to a running play because they outnumber the defense in the tackle box, giving them an advantage rushing the football.
A passing advantage may also be found pre-snap for the offense due to a defender covering a preferred receiver by defensive alignment. This may include a linebacker matched up unfavorably against the speed and athleticism of a wide receiver. Furthermore, a safety can be pulled to the three receiver side of an offensive formation leaving a ton of real estate in the middle of the field or on the backside of the offense.
Offenses all the way down to the high school level tend to have multiple route concepts (four verticals, flooding a zone with multiple receivers, running a rub route with two receivers to wall of a defender, etc.) they prefer to run against various defensive man and zone coverages. The game continues to migrate towards who can manipulate the use of space better, achieve more possessions in a game, and finding the fastest way to score points.
Football in Eastern Jackson County boasts two coaches with more than 50 years of combined experience coaching high school football. David Allie is the head football coach of the Grain Valley Eagles. Greg Smith is the offensive coordinator for the Blue Springs South Jaguars. Both Allie and Smith are close friends, believe in the spread offense, and have paid their dues to win accolades and respect within the football coaching community.
Allie took over the reigns of the Grain Valley Eagles Football program in 2014 after spending fourteen previous years at Raytown South High School as their head coach (including leading the Raytown South Cardinals squad to the 2009 state championship game). Allie was also recognized as the Kansas City Chiefs 2016 Missouri High School Coach of the Year while at Grain Valley and is fresh off leading the Eagles to the Class 4, District 7 Championship last season.
Smith helped the Jaguars offense accumulate an average of 25.8 points a game in his first season at Blue Springs South. The Jaguars were also able to boast success late in the season with a Class 6 state playoff win over Holt. Smith has enjoyed previous achievement as a head coach at Plattsburg, Smithville, and Pleasant Hill, guiding each of those programs to playoff wins. Smith was rewarded for his efforts in 2018, when he was inducted into the Missouri High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
Both Allie and Smith offered their thoughts on football’s spread offense as it continues to evolve.
“I don’t know if what we do is exactly the spread offense, but more a hybrid of philosophies. I’m a firm believer in running offensive schemes that fit the team’s personnel, not just dedication to a scheme regardless,” Allie said.
“During my high school days, we ran the I-formation. At Raytown South as an assistant coach, we ran the I, and when I first took over as head coach there I was fascinated with and installed the Wing-T formation. However, the best traditional Wing-T teams always have a good tight end and I have not always been able to find one.”
“Because some teams lack a tight end, and as offensive philosophies have generally evolved, many Wing-T concepts were adopted and morphed into spread formations.”
Allie continued, “At Grain Valley and Raytown South we have not always been blessed with great size up front, but we have had quickness and athleticism. Spread formations can be adapted to use a variety of different running schemes.”
“Elements of deception from the Wing-T and athleticism of the group you coach can be utilized to confuse the defense in the spread offense. It is also a very fan friendly offensive scheme – as these formations are what spectators see during college and pro games, and can provide offenses with big play potential, which leads to scoring more points.”
The journey to the spread offense for Smith was one born more out of necessity.
“My team had suffered some injuries in key positions which led us to make the change in season. What I found to be true was that the spread concepts matched well with my philosophies and there was more space on the field because the defense was forced to spread out as well,” Smith said.
Both Allie and Smith are old school in the splendor of observing battles in the trenches that result in positive rushing yards for an offense. Neither is oblivious to the benefits gained by making the opposing defense stretch to account for offensive players lined up all over the field.
“I’ll have to admit, it is a thing of beauty to watch six or seven enormous lineman stand foot to foot while the quarterback hands off the football to a bruising 220 pound running back only to see the entire vanguard march down the field destroying everything in its path,” Allie said.
“Unfortunately, I have never had the players to do that, so I try to adapt our scheme to what we have. I feel the spread offense gives you that freedom. I also feel that spread formations stretch the defense both horizontally and vertically, so there are natural seams created in the defense that can be exploited.”
“I am a fan of getting the ball to athletes in space. Also, by adding shifts and motions, you can create other seams to exploit while gaining a numbers advantage against one side of the defense.”
Smith agreed, “In my opinion, one of the most difficult things to do in the sport of football is tackling in the open field. By spreading the defense out and forcing them to defend the entire width of the field, it forces defenders to do exactly that.”
“Offensively, we try to manipulate the ‘box.’ By the offense taking a player out of the box, whether it is tight end, running back, or both; the defense is forced to match that movement. This spreading out the defense allows for better running lanes for the ball carrier.”
“If the defense does not spread out to match the formation, it gives the offense an advantage in the passing game. Essentially, spreading out the offensive formation puts certain defenders in a conflict, giving the offense the advantage.”
The spread offense may sound like a no brainer for coaches looking to seek a winning edge. There are things that must be considered that are not always apparent on the surface if the move is made away from football’s traditional offenses. Any offensive line coach in the spread offense will likely tell you their number one stress is finding a player that can execute the shotgun snap consistently.
Coaches like having their five best offensive lineman play up front and be plugged into a position. The spread offense may consist of one player who can get the shotgun snap back to the quarterback without sailing over his head, or dribbling along the ground, and their four other best offensive linemen. In a perfect world, one of your five best offensive lineman overall can also perform the shotgun snap successfully on a consistent basis.
The spread offense also requires a team to be in great shape if they are going to get off a play every thirteen seconds after the ball is spotted for play by an official. Teams must commit to practicing and conditioning this way if they want to gain offensive possessions during a game to score more points.
Quarterbacks must learn the skill of seeing the ball into their hands by feel or with their peripheral vision to gain the advantage of reading a defense down field on a pass play or the defensive end man on the line of scrimmage if they are to read what he’s doing prior to deciding to hand off the football (on a read option run).
Additionally, quarterbacks must develop a clock on how long they can hold the football before it must be gone on a passing play. Typically, that’s four seconds or less. Something that is done naturally when a quarterback lines up under center and performs a three or five step drop. The quarterback knows the ball should be out of their hand when the last step in their drop is completed. This meshes well with the natural time it takes for wide receivers to get into their routes.
“The quarterback can survey the defense more cleanly lined up in shotgun. In the modern game of quarterback reads and RPO’s, the extra 4 to 5 yards of depth give the quarterback good angles of vision to make the decision to stress read defenders,” Allie said.
“We allow our quarterback to survey the defense and make audibles based on their (the defenses) alignment to the play we have called, again looking to put our players in the best position to be successful. I also feel it makes it easier for the quarterback in the passing game because there is more time to see the overall coverage schemes for both pre and post snap reads and footwork is easier in drops.”
Allie concluded, “the big disadvantage is the potential for error on the snap. The snap must be consistent, and the quarterback has to make sure he handles whatever ball comes to him. Adding weather issues like rain or snow creates another obstacle. Our centers and quarterbacks need to have reps snapping before, during, and after practice to make sure snaps are not an issue.”
“Another disadvantage is that the deceptiveness of the quarterback hiding the ball from the defense is almost nil in the shotgun. You have to find ways to be deceptive, but that is much more difficult than the quarterback turning around from under center with his back to the defense hiding the football.”
Smith concurred with Allie’s assessment on the advantages and disadvantages of the shotgun.
“The biggest advantage to the shotgun is that it increases the quarterback’s ability to see the defense. From the snap of the ball to the completion of the play, the quarterback is able to have the entire defense in his line of vision. Another advantage to the shotgun is time. The moment that the quarterback catches the snap, he is immediately at a depth that would take a quarterback at least three steps to attain if he were under center,” Smith said.
“The major disadvantage of the shotgun is the center-quarterback exchange (the snap). The exchange is less consistent than if the quarterback was under center. This inconsistency is magnified if there are adverse weather conditions. Another disadvantage is short yardage situations. The actual football must physically travel backwards five yards before moving forward. That is not ideal in a fourth-and-one situation, or on the goal line.”
The final thoughts Allie and Smith shared were regarding two universal truths about football, being up tempo offensively can wear down your opponent and the game of football is still won or lost at the line of scrimmage, even in the era of the spread offense.
“Coach Smith likes to be up tempo all the time. I like to use it situationally. It creates an advantage in that you usually see a more generic defense as they don’t have time to huddle, substitute personnel, or stem and blitz,” Allie said.
“However, listening to Coach Carpino (Grain Valley’s Defensive Coordinator), if the offense is unsuccessful by having a quick ‘three and out,’ it makes your own defense have to be on the field longer without needed rest, which actually is the opposite of the goal and hurts your own team.”
“We like to use up tempo for a series of plays (usually scripted, but sometimes a whole series), especially after a turnover, to gain advantage over a tired opponent, and to change momentum or ignite some excitement.”
Smith provided the final word with his thoughts, “The sport of football is very intricate with a lot of moving parts on every play. As complicated as we try to make it as coaches, the game really comes down to two basic things: blocking and tackling.”
“In addition to that, most games are won or lost in two major areas: winning the line of scrimmage and the turnover battle. It doesn’t matter what offensive philosophy you use, winning at the line of scrimmage is the key to having a successful offense. Your team is going to struggle to score points if the offensive line is unable to create creases for the ball carrier in the run game of if they can’t keep the defense from hitting the quarterback in the passing game.”
by John Unrein
Mind over matter was a big part of the Lady Eagles Tennis Camp the week of July 13th at Grain Valley High School. Keeping thoughts focused on competition instead of the sweltering heat were the intentions of Head Girls Tennis Coach Blake Thorne and Assistant Coach Randy Draper.
“Don’t be fooled. It’s not as hot as it looks. We’ve got a strong breeze coming off (Lake) Jacomo over here on this court,” Draper said.
Draper would interject questions and commentary in between drills and at water breaks as this was the most common time legitimate complaints would come from camp participants about the heat and humidity.
“What’s the best flavor of Mountain Dew? That’s a trick question, they’re all pretty good. Don’t step on that beetle. He has an important place in this world. Who can name me all four Beatles? I’ll give you a hint, the silent one was known as George Harrison.”
“What’s he talking about,” was a common initial response to Draper’s questions and comments by participants prior to engaging in conversation about Code Red being their favorite flavor of Mountain Dew or that they couldn’t name all the Beatles, but they had seen the movie Yesterday.
Camp was conducted in a rotational drill manner. Volley work, service practice, and doubles competition for points with coaches dropping in serve to start was part of the drill menu. The sequencing of drills kept camp attendees moving and avoiding boredom.
Constant encouragement and constructive criticism were offered by Thorne and Draper to help players improve.
“Forward and across with your racket when you’re stepping,” Draper said.
“I’d rather have two rackets clang together than have two good players watch the ball go by when we’re doing doubles.”
Draper continued, “When we try to teach the ball a lesson, it often comes out wrong. Focus on getting the ball over the net by contact first.”
Twenty-one high school girls were in attendance for camp. Upperclassmen Chelsea Gorden and Alyssa Owens are among those returning with varsity experience. Both Gorden and Owens are fresh off their first place finish in varsity doubles during the first of two Kansas City Summer Slam Series Tennis events.
“I look forward to being around the team again. We have some new friendships to forge as we graduated a lot of seniors last year,” Gorden said.
“I want us to keep winning conference. That’s definitely one of our goals. Us practicing with a focus will help us be good this upcoming season.”
Gorden concluded, “Playing matches out here helps us get back in the groove. You can practice hitting and serving on your own, but with so many USTA tournaments being cancelled this summer, this is important practice for us.”
The landscape of camp affords an opportunity for incoming freshmen to seniors to work on tennis fundamentals. The repetition of practicing swings, being in the habit of moving their feet, and getting work on hand eye coordination with a racket is something intended to make the start of high school tennis a little bit easier during the month of August.
“Youngsters won’t feel completely out of place when they walk into practice in a month. The kids that are more advanced will get to work on a couple of shots that will help elevate their game as well. It never hurts to see everyone else in this setting to know where you are as a player. We all want to improve,” Draper said.
Draper continued, “I have missed tennis. I love the competition. Both individual and team sports (as I coach both) have merit. In an individual game, if you win, you know why. If you lose, you know why.”
“There’s a motivation that comes out of this sport because it’s hard to hide on the tennis court. I love to watch a kid being able to hit a shot that a couple of weeks ago was a disaster. The look on their face when they get into matches and can then make that shot is awesome.”
by POWRi (Grain Valley, MO) and Valley News staff
In what was an eventful POWRi Lucas Oil National and West Midget League feature event at Valley Speedway, Ace McCarthy had to fend off several challenges as he wired the field for his second career POWRi victory. McCarthy's Valley Speedway victory was his first driving for Dave Mac Motorsports.
Taking the early lead from polesitter Zach Daum after going three-wide into turn three, McCarthy took control of the 30-lap feature event coming out of turn four to lead lap one. Enduring several cautions early, McCarthy consistently pulled away from the field on the restarts as the field jockeyed for position on back.
The biggest threat to McCarthy's momentum occurred with nine laps in, as Ethan Mitchell spun a 360 in turn four while running third, Amber Balcean flipped wildly through turn four bringing out the open red. Returning to racing, McCarthy switched from running the ledge all the way around to rolling the bottom in one and two, while continuing to rip the lip in three and four.
All the while as McCarthy remained out front, the top three jockeyed for position with Michael Buddy Kofoid eventually working the third position away from Zach Daum. Coming down to the final turn, second running Daison Pursley threw everything he had with a slider into three, but McCarthy powered on to victory. Pursley tied his career-best finish of second with Kofoid completing the podium. Cannon McIntosh and Andrew Felker rounded out the top five.
"Towards the end we started getting pretty tight in three and four and I was just trying not to mess that up," commented Ace McCarthy. "There's a little rut up there and I was just trying to stay in it and get that drive off. I knew if I kept it down in one and two, Daison wouldn't get around me. He was definitely putting some pressure on me. That's where I won here last year. On the bottom in one and two and the top in three and four. You just had to be patient and get in easy in three. Cody Cordell, Robby, and Matt gave me a great car tonight. I can't thank Dave Mac enough for giving me a car to drive."
Lucas Oil A Feature 1 (30 Laps): 1. 28-Ace McCarthy; 2. 9-Daison Pursley; 3. 67-Michael Kofoid; 4. 71K-Cannon McIntosh; 5. 44S-Andrew Felker; 6. 15-Emerson Axsom; 7. 3N-Jake Neuman; 8. 5D-Zach Daum; 9. 7M-Chance Morton; 10. 97-Jesse Love; 11. 21K-Emilio Hoover; 12. 7U-Kyle Jones; 13. 00-Trey Gropp; 14. 2H-Luke Howard; 15. 72-Sam Johnson; 16. 08-Noah Gass; 17. 19M-Ethan Mitchell; 18. 84M-Kade Morton; 19. 71-Kaylee Bryson; 20. 26-Tristin Thomas; 21. 3B-Shelby Bosie; 22. 10-Amber Balcaen; 23. 49-Joe B Miller
Rod End Supply B Feature 1 (10 Laps): 1. 2H-Luke Howard; 2. 84M-Kade Morton; 3. 10-Amber Balcaen; 4. 07-Kyle Wilson; 5. 97K-Brenham Crouch; 6. 70-Cade Cowles; 7. 2-Trevor Casey; 8. 9X-Aaron Mcdonald; 9. 67K-Jonathan Shafer; 10. 7MX-Heath Murry; 11. 08-Noah Gass
AFCO B Feature 2 (10 Laps): 1. 7U-Kyle Jones; 2. 3N-Jake Neuman; 3. 72-Sam Johnson; 4. 7D-Michelle Decker; 5. 321-Chad Winfrey; 6. 74-Xavier Doney; 7. 4F-Chad Frewaldt; 8. 3-Mark Chisholm; 9. 4C-Branigan Roark; 10. 5H-Casey Hicks
Auto Meter Heat 1 (8 Laps): 1. 15-Emerson Axsom; 2. 21K-Emilio Hoover; 3. 71-Kaylee Bryson; 4. 67-Michael Kofoid; 5. 3N-Jake Neuman; 6. 7U-Kyle Jones; 7. 4F-Chad Frewaldt; 8. 7D-Michelle Decker
KSE Racing Products Heat 2 (8 Laps): 1. 28-Ace McCarthy; 2. 7M-Chance Morton; 3. 26-Tristin Thomas; 4. 44S-Andrew Felker; 5. 67K-Jonathan Shafer; 6. 321-Chad Winfrey; 7. 74-Xavier Doney; 8. 07-Kyle Wilson
Advanced Racing Suspensions Heat 3 (8 Laps): 1. 19M-Ethan Mitchell; 2. 5D-Zach Daum; 3. 72-Sam Johnson; 4. 49-Joe B Miller; 5. 7MX-Heath Murry; 6. 70-Cade Cowles; 7. 5H-Casey Hicks
Schoenfeld Headers Heat 4 (8 Laps): 1. 71K-Cannon McIntosh; 2. 00-Trey Gropp; 3. 9-Daison Pursley; 4. 2H-Luke Howard; 5. 3-Mark Chisholm; 6. 10-Amber Balcaen; 7. 08-Noah Gass
Racing Electronics Heat 5 (8 Laps): 1. 97-Jesse Love; 2. 3B-Shelby Bosie; 3. 97K-Brenham Crouch; 4. 84M-Kade Morton; 5. 4C-Branigan Roark; 6. 2-Trevor Casey; 7. 9X-Aaron Mcdonald
Auto Meter Heat 1 Winner: 15 - EMERSON AXSOM
KSE Racing Products Heat 2 Winner: 28 - ACE MCCARTHY
Advanced Racing Suspensions Heat 3 Winner: 19M - ETHAN MITCHELL
Schoenfeld Headers Heat 4 Winner: 71K - CANNON MCINTOSH
Racing Electronics Heat 5 Winner: 97 - JESSE LOVE
PAC Schroeder Torsion Bars High Point: 5D - ZACH DAUM
Rod End Supply Semi-Feature 1: 2H - LUKE HOWARD
AFCO Semi-Feature 2: 7U - KYLE JONES
TRD Hard Charger: 3N - JAKE NEUMAN
Lucas Oil Feature Winner: 28 - ACE MCCARTHY
Next up at Valley Speedway is the Monsters in the Valley Monster Truck Show on July 24-25. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.valleyspeedway.com.
by John Unrein
Humidity and heat greeted the Grain Valley Eagles Football Team during their on the field activities and conditioning the week of July 6th. Frequent water breaks, social distancing, and coaches providing instruction through masks were the new norms of the Eagles progressing through their 2020 offseason.
Whether it be a surgical mask, or a facemask, there are old and new faces adorning themselves on the field for the Eagles. Senior quarterbacks Cole Keller and Parker Bosserman are sharing reps with the varsity offense. Senior linebacker Hunter Newsom and defensive lineman Quincy Jones return as well for the Eagles blackshirt defense.
Keller has shown proficiency providing accurate downfield strikes on slant routes and play action post patterns behind safeties. This is old hat for Keller and something his right arm excels at regularly. Keller continues to show no ill effects of the knee injury that ended his 2019 season prematurely.
Bosserman has picked up where he left off last season when he filled in for the injured Keller at quarterback. Judgement to keep or pitch on option plays has been sound for Bosserman. It has also allowed him to showcase his quickness in getting into the Eagles defensive backfield during scrimmages.
Jones returns along Grain Valley’s defensive line along with senior teammate Donovan McBride to provide notable size. Jones has found his voice in being a more vocal leader for the Eagles defense. He also turned in one of the better defensive plays for the Eagles on July 6th.
Stemming (realigning quickly prior to the snap to throw off the blocking assignment of the offense) late in front of the offensive guard allowed for Jones to get penetration into the Eagles offensive backfield. Jones reward was meeting a wide receiver coming across the formation on a reverse prior to knocking the football out of his grasp.
“I’m comfortable in my own skin. If I do something wrong, I admit it. If I see someone else doing something wrong, I’m going to say something about it. Once you get comfortable communicating honestly, you play better,” Jones said.
“I got off the ball today at times well. The play on the reverse was one of those times. To be honest, I feel like I could’ve played better today. Film will tell that story. It’s our first day in pads though and there’s always room for improvement.”
Newsom on the other hand, is an old face in a new place for the Eagles. Fullback was a spot that Newsom shared with teammate Seth Dankenbring last year. Both players brought their physical mentality from their linebacker position to block and catch for the offensive side of the football. Dankenbring is awaiting graduation as a member of the Class of 2020. Newsom is learning the new offensive position of tailback in the Eagles’ offense.
To be asked to play both ways is a sign of respect in football. Being trusted to learn and execute things as an offensive and defensive player is not easy. It takes lots of physical reps, mental preparation, and acceptance of coaching. Newsom is preparing for both as a returning starter on defense and learning the nuances of ball protection, block reading, and pass protection schemes as a tailback on offense.
“I was a running back in youth football. I have enjoyed getting back to my routes. Getting asked to go both ways is a challenge I am willing to meet to help this team win,” Newsom said.
“If you think, it will slow you down. Both positions I play on each side of the football are about reaction. Our coaches give us permission to make mistakes early on in this process as long as we do them full speed.”
Newsom did not hesitate when asked which side of the football he likes better and why.
“On defense you are free. There’s a mentality you must possess being a member of our blackshirt defense. Seek and destroy the football. React to what you see and don’t hesitate.”
Guiding Newsom on his growth in the offensive backfield is assistant varsity football coach Chris Pate. Grain Valley is home for Pate and his family. Pate will be wrapping up a decade as a teacher in the Grain Valley School District this school year. It will also be his seventh season as part of the football staff.
Pate brings a wealth of knowledge with him as the new varsity running back coach for the Eagles. An all-state selection as a linebacker as well as being an all-conference running back during his prep days at Wellington-Napoleon High School is something that Pate acknowledges but does not like to elaborate on out of modesty.
Pate has also served as a head football coach at Crest Ridge, Missouri, along with a stint as the defensive coordinator at William Chrisman High School in Independence, Missouri. Prior coaching experience is one of the reasons why Pate has pushed fundamentals and their proper execution by the players he coaches so far during team camp and on the field activities.
“Ball security and knowing what to do on each play has been the primary focus for us. It doesn’t matter how much talent you possess as a runner, if you don’t hold onto the football you can’t play for us,” Pate said.
“Reading the hole with how fast things happen in this offense (with pulling offensive lineman) is also something that grows out of confidence from reps and improving your reaction. Lastly, you must be willing to block.”
Pate concluded, “I am excited be here and part of a successful staff that Coach Allie has built. I am looking forward to what lies ahead for us.”
by John Unrein
Fire up the grill on the back porch and grab your favorite libation. Major League Baseball is back. MLB Network shared the 60 game schedule each team will play on July 6th. Each club will have six off-days, except for the four teams beginning the season on July 23rd. They will have seven apiece due to being the first teams in action during the 2020 season.
Below is a breakdown provided by MLB of what the revised 60 game schedule will look like for each team as the regular season will run through September 27th. Teams will be playing 37 percent of the scheduled games they would typically play during the duration of a regular 162 game season.
40 Divisional Games (20 home, 20 road)
10 games against each opponent, split between three series.
Each of these matchups will have either one team playing seven games at home and three on the road, or six at home and four on the road.
20 Interleague Games (10 home, 10 road)
Six games against the team’s natural interleague rival (three home, three road).
Four games apiece against two other opponents in the corresponding division (two home, two road).
One three-game home series against a fourth opponent.
One three-game road series against a fifth opponent.
The Kansas City Royals will open their season on the road against the Cleveland Indians on July 24th. After three games in Cleveland, the Royals will take on another Central Division rival in Detroit against the Tigers before returning home.
The Royals’ home opener will be July 31st at 7:05 pm at Kauffman Stadium against the White Sox per the Major League Baseball calendar. If that sounds familiar it should, as it will mark the third straight season the Royals’ home opener will be against the White Sox.
Grain Valley Eagles head baseball coach Brian Driskell is interested in the return of professional baseball. The strategy used by teams and how they will approach the shortened season creates intrigue for Driskell.
“My son and I sat and watched the live stream of batting practice the first day back for the players on Twitter. Baseball is a joy or passion for anyone who’s ever played the game, gone to the ballpark with their dad, or learned how to keep score. It’s called America’s pastime for a reason,” Driskell said.
“Strategy deployed during games by managers will be paramount. My thought process is you will see more hit and run, bunting, and relievers going longer with the three batter minimum that is unique. Batters will try to actually take advantage of the shift deployed by hitting to the opposite field and laying down bunts close to the foul line.”
“It’s funny that it’s actually a little bit closer of being like a prep atmosphere because every game matters. You might have two starters go back to back in a game instead of a bullpen trying to hold a lead.”
Driskell continued, “A batter’s approach at the plate to some extent may be to look fastball or for something elevated first and then protect the plate as the at bat continues. I think the value of a run is going to be at a premium because you can’t rely on your team getting hot at some point over 162 games. Managers may be less patient with pitchers who don’t listen.”
The state playoff experience enjoyed by Driskell in managing the Eagles in recent years has reassured him of the value of having a solid bullpen approach. Looking at the scorecard and having a plan for a grouping of opponents batters you are concerned with for the next time they will be up and who will match up best against them is important.
Doing this at the outset of a game or a few innings ahead, instead of waiting for the moment trouble happens in a game promotes a better chance of victory. Knowing your pitchers’ strengths based on their stuff, stats, and how they matchup versus right or left handed batters is in the consistent forefront of Driskell’s managing thought process.
“The three batter minimum for pitchers will affect strategy. That approach alone will be drastic. You might walk a batter intentionally so that you avoid a matchup you don’t like versus a right or left hander to get the most favorable matchups in a game. People will pay attention to the lineup card and look at matchups four or five batters down the road. I’ve seen an excellent batter in a high school playoff game be walked intentionally three times with no one base because the other team was determined that he wasn’t go to hurt them,” Driskell said.
“Usually by the MLB All-Star game, there are five or six teams that are likely out of it by the break. Now there may be 20 or so teams that are in it with 12 games left. That’s going to influence how people manage and approach each game.”
Two things that Driskell enjoys about the Kansas City Royals is how they play the game and the needed distraction that they will provide in the coming months. Both will be a welcome sight.
“One of the greatest things about the Royals in ’14 and ’15 was they played the game the way it was played during the 1950’s and 1960’s. They relied on athleticism, speed, fielding, and making contact with the baseball. I would love to see the game evolve backward away from the long ball,” Driskell said.
“What I love about coaching baseball is taking advantage of your ability versus their inability. I would like to see guys going back to digging out ground balls and I think that will happen more with the abbreviated season.”
Driskell concluded,” One of the things that will get lost is that baseball isn’t the most important thing in the world right now. We are looking for a distraction from the things that are going on economically, politically, or pandemically.”
“There are a ton of kids who did not get drafted this year that would have normally. Those players will be playing college baseball this season depending on what happens with their season. The next three to five year window may see less players getting the chance to play baseball at a higher level. That is sad.”
by John Unrein
Grain Valley senior defensive back Brayden Terry is a returning starter in the Eagles secondary. His efforts during the 2019 campaign helped the Eagles to a 9-4 record and the Class 4, District 7 Championship. His not so little brother, Cooper, is a junior competing for a starting spot along the Eagles offensive line at right tackle.
The same last name, enjoyment of competition, and being proud of their school colors is not the biggest driving force that unites the two siblings. Instead, it is their love of football. Something instilled in them by their father, Mike Cooper.
“I like how much respect is given by your opponent when you compete hard against him. In between the start and end of the game you want to rip each other’s heart out, but afterward you share a connection. This is a brotherhood that grows out of competition,” Cooper Terry said.
Brayden Terry added, “I have loved football my whole life. My Dad played baseball growing up, but I can remember him watching and talking about football since I was little. There’s something about carrying the football and getting to be around your teammates. It creates a bond that’s hard to replace.”
“My only advice to my brother Cooper is to go crazy. Give this your all. Don’t be scared and whatever happens, happens. The best things occur when you are the one being the most physical.”
The youngest Terry has soaked up the advice of and latched on to both his older brother and best friend, Jack Bailey to serve as mentors. Bailey plays right guard and is a returning starter along the Eagles offensive line. It’s not been uncommon during football camp the week of June 29th to see the two talking about technique or line calls before or after a rep.
“Jack (Bailey) and I are around each other on and off the field. He plays right guard and I play right tackle. We have a chemistry to where we trust each other and listen to what the other one is saying. Off the field we share the same jokes and the same job. We both work at Price Chopper doing the same thing,” Cooper Terry said.
While Brayden Terry tends to be quiet and introverted, the opposite would be true of Cooper Terry, who is not bashful about his sense of humor. An example of this was apparent during a skip pull drill at camp where lineman skip to get depth out of their stance to build momentum before they continue their path to block the defender in front of them.
The younger Terry pulled out of his stance quickly prior to getting his feet tangled and falling. The laughs only grew from his peers when a fellow lineman got in a sniper stance on the ground in front of him with Terry falling again upon hearing “bang” without missing a beat. Varsity assistant offensive line coaches Mike Tarrants and Gavin Grillo worked hard to fight back a smile prior to correcting the needed footwork of those participating in the drill.
Both Terrys will have their work cut out for them as Grain Valley transitions to the Suburban Conference’s White Division or Middle Six this upcoming season. Belton, Fort Osage, Raytown, Truman, and William Chrisman will join Grain Valley to round out the division. Brayden will be facing athletic wide receivers, while Cooper will be blocking powerful edge rushers and linebackers. It’s a family affair they both look forward to.
by John Unrein
Fundamentals and their execution matter significantly in football. It should be no surprise then that the Grain Valley Eagles returned to the football field during team camp the week of June 29th focusing on simple things that matter. Mother Nature was good to those in attendance at camp with a breeze, overcast skies, and temperatures in the low 80’s.
Players have had the opportunity to see their coaches in the weight room since mid-June as well as meeting virtually with them. It’s hard to replace the physical repetitions you get through a camp setting through. Not to mention the comradery that builds from players getting to be around their peers and coaches.
Thirty-one of the ninety camp attendees for grades 9-12 worked in the north end zone of Moody Murray Stadium at Grain Valley High School in the offensive line group. Hip and ankle flexibility along with drive block progression and pass protection sets were on the drill menu. Social distancing of six feet was encouraged by assistant varsity offensive line coaches Mike Tarrants and Gavin Grillo.
“Drive progression may seem monotonous, but one inch in the trenches determines if you make or miss your block. The myelin around your nerve cells grow from this process. Our offense requires offensive lineman to be able to move 360 degrees,” Tarrants said in a loud and gruff voice.
“Retrace your steps and be light on your feet. Be athletic. No buffaloes in a water hole.”
One of the linemen paying keen attention to the instruction of Tarrants and Grillo is senior right guard Jack Bailey. A position Bailey has started at since he was a sophomore. The veteran of the offensive line has earned his stripes. Proof of that resides in Bailey’s selection last season as a first team Suburban Blue All-Conference selection.
Bailey is thrilled that football is back. He’s also excited to get the opportunity to play next to his best friend who’s competing for the starting job at right tackle.
“Football is a brotherhood. This is my second family. During the summer and fall, it’s my first family though because I spend so much time with these guys. I love all of them. Junior Cooper Terry is my best friend and we are going to have a lot of fun this season with him competing to be the starter at right tackle,” Bailey said.
“I have a leadership role on my shoulders this year as well. I have been here the longest of the guys up front. I have to lead by example by doing my job to the best of my ability and then communicating with those around me in holding them accountable.”
Bailey concluded, “I am passionate about this sport. I am hoping for a good and full season for us. I’ve watched quite a few Kansas City Chiefs replays during quarantine to get my football fix along with working out.”
The Eagles Blackshirt Defense was busy as well during camp. Defensive Coordinator Pete Carpino kept players engaged and on the move. Pursuit drill allowed for all eleven members of the defense to take proper angles in getting to the ball carrier. Alignment and assignment were repetitiously drilled through run fits and timing blitzes.
Carpino juggled many hats during tackling drills, including spraying disinfectant on the hands and arms after each member of the team concluded taking down the tackling ring.
“Keep your eyes up, wrap up with your head behind the ring, and drive your feet through the tackle. This helps us be sound as a defense and get off the field. Come see me each time after you’re done with the drill to get disinfectant,” Carpino said.
Highlighting the most competitive part of camp was the pass skeleton period done at the end of each practice. This segment allowed new and returning members of the offense and defensive secondary to go head to head. Among those motivating their teammates were two seniors, defensive back Trent Knox and quarterback Cole Keller.
Knox was determined to keep the offensive side of the football quiet by limiting their completions. Keller was mobile and accurate in his performance at quarterback, showing no ill effects of the knee injury that ended his 2019 season.
Eagles Head Football Coach David Allie was pleased with camp attendance and results.
“This week has been good. We have displayed a high energy level. These kids have missed football and it shows,” Allie said.
“This camp usually happens in May. We would put in our base schemes to take to Pitt State or whatever college camp we would attend. Right now, it’s baby steps. We’ve been installing our offense and defense. The incoming freshman run similar schemes at middle school. This is still new to them in a lot of ways and we try to set the foundation for them through teaching and repetition, so their confidence grows.”
Allie continued, “The start of football is still fun for me some twenty years in. I don’t sleep the night before out of anticipation. The day I don’t wake up excited to do this or eager to see kids is the day I’ll know it’s time to go. I’m still jazzed to be here and the joy on the kids faces has a lot to with that.”
by John Unrein
Father and son combinations filled the stands at Valley Speedway on June 20th. The opportunity to take in a sun drenched afternoon of All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) racing and Demolition Derby heats were a big draw in Grain Valley.
Michael Clemons and his son, Brandon Michael Clemons were among the Eastern Jackson County residents to share the experience together.
“This is a good thing for my son and I to do. We come out here to watch Monster Truck competitions as well. What better thing could you ask for then to be at a place like this with your baby boy. Hopefully, the rain holds off,” the senior Clemons said.
“The bus is my favorite. It’s here for the monster trucks. This is my first demolition derby,” said the younger Clemons.
The jacked up yellow school bus that Clemons is referring to sits to the right of the entrance as fans make their way into Valley Speedway. The graphics and text that adorn the bus celebrate teachers and monster trucks. Two things that contribute to the education and imagination of children. The bus also makes an indelible mark in the memory of young fans who visit Valley Speedway.
Valley Speedway owner Dennis Shrout and his promotion of a family friendly environment included getting to meet drivers and taking a look at their vehicles on the track prior to the kickoff of racing. Public address announcer Greg Clemons walked the track interviewing families and drivers alike.
Drivers explained the different charities they race for as well as the satisfaction that comes from getting to compete by crashing their vehicle into someone else. Fans mentioned the strategy they pick at the outset of a race for determining who they think will win.
Matt Harrill is a driver who participated in a demolition derby heat. The combine mechanic at Heritage Tractor enjoys the weekend hobby he learned from his dad and his two uncles.
“The adrenaline rush from competition and trying to make it to the end is the goal. Sometimes it’s all worth it when you have to put the car back together afterwards. This takes many hours to get everything set up right,” Harrill said.
Harrill also provided insight to a driver’s mindset and how they select the vehicles they choose to run. There is strategy involved and having a mechanical aptitude helps to promote success.
“Frame strength of the car is important. We are starting to run 1998 to 2002 Ford Crown Victorias because they have double frames that make them solid. Those frames are also straighter than the older model Crown Victorias you come across. Up front is reinforced, and they have internal hump plates that strengthen out the car quite a bit.”
Harrill continued, “It would be nice if we could get even more people out here doing this (demolition derby driving). Seeing the sport grow through fans showing their appreciation by attending events like this is definitely appreciated and a welcomed site.”
The next event at Valley Speedway is C.A.R.B. point series racing on June 27th.
Here are the results of racing at Valley Speedway for June 20th.
6/20/2020 at Valley Speedway
ATV Open Amateur
A Feature 1 (6 Laps): 1. 24-Samantha LaRae; 2. 2-Danny Pliler; 3. 04-Hunter Post; 4. 88-Gaven Nave; 5. 13-Stephen Stadler; 6. (DNS) 616-Alex Hann; 7. (DNS) 43-Josh Smith
Heat 1 (5 Laps): 1. 2-Danny Pliler; 2. 24-Samantha LaRae; 3. 04-Hunter Post; 4. 88-Gaven Nave; 5. 13-Stephen Stadler; 6. (DNF) 43-Josh Smith; 7. (DNF) 616-Alex Hann
ATV Open Money
A Feature 1 (7 Laps): 1. 337-Mark Lee; 2. 420-Mathew Eppenauer; 3. 19-Garrett Feller; 4. 5-Brody Hibdon; 5. 98-Luke Drenon; 6. 00-Jonathan Roberts; 7. 11-Chris Stout; 8. 303-James Harrison; 9. 21K-Jordon Krusemann; 10. (DNS) 9115-Chris Shelton
Heat 1 (5 Laps): 1. 337-Mark Lee; 2. 19-Garrett Feller; 3. 5-Brody Hibdon; 4. 21K-Jordon Krusemann; 5. 11-Chris Stout; 6. 420-Mathew Eppenauer; 7. 00-Jonathan Roberts; 8. 98-Luke Drenon; 9. 303-James Harrison; 10. (DNS) 9115-Chris Shelton
Baseball fans rejoiced June 23rd following Major League Baseball’s announcement of a deal reached to begin the season July 23rd or 24th. Players are expected to report July 1st for training.
“Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon. We have provided the Players Association with a schedule to play 60 games and are excited to provide our great fans with Baseball again soon,” Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said in a statement released June 23rd.
The proposed schedule will largely feature divisional play, with the remaining portion of each Club’s games against their opposite league’s corresponding geographical division (i.e., East vs. East, Central vs. Central and West vs. West), in order to mitigate travel. The vast majority of Major League Clubs are expected to conduct training at the ballparks in their primary home cities.
At home in Grain Valley, an opportunity to train the next generation of players will be offered through an Instructional T-Ball program hosted by Grain Valley Parks & Recreation.
The program begins Saturday, July 11th and runs for 6 weeks. The program is open to boys and girls 3 to 5 years of age, and focuses on skill development and fun. Participants will rotate through stations that focus on major skills of the game. Non-competitive games will be played the last three sessions of the program. A $45 fee covers the 6 week session and includes a t-shirt and medal for each player.
To register for the Instructional T-Ball program, call 816-847-6230 ext. 9, stop by the Community Center, 713 S. Main, or register online at grainvalley.recdesk.com.