by John Unrein
Valley Speedway concluded their 2020 season on October 17th with a Halloween Trunk or Treat for kids prior to ATV heat racing and demolition derby contests. The stands were relatively packed on a brisk fall afternoon as young and old alike took in the experience in Grain Valley.
Spider Man, Wonder Woman, and Kansas City Chiefs players were among the most common costumes during the meet the driver Halloween Trunk or Treat prior to racing. Valley Speedway track announcer Greg Clemons interviewed drivers prior to racing along with youngsters on what they enjoyed the most about racing.
The Carrera family of Eastern Jackson County were among those in attendance. Chris, Angie, and River Carrera enjoy getting outdoors and being able to do something together in a fun atmosphere. The Carrera’s do not come from a family racing background and were introduced to the sport upon attending their first demolition derby when they moved to Missouri.
“I like the pretzels here and when the cars crash into each other,” River Carrera said.
Chris Carrera added, “There’s a sense of community here and it’s fun to watch the comradery amongst the drivers. It’s low key and a relaxed crowd compared to what the stereotype may be.”
“The sportsmanship is good. This is a little bit inherently dangerous to do, but if someone’s at risk or it looks like someone is or could get hurt, they stop the race and check on them.”
Angie Carrera concluded, “Valley Speedway is family friendly. The modifications to cars are interesting that drivers complete to be competitive. You find yourself getting behind a driver and rooting for their car.”
“I love when they drive a minivan. The tailpipes come through the hood as part of the modification. It kind of has that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome look to it.”
Cars with hulking overhangs in the front and back along with old school body-on-frame construction are advantages drivers look for when assembling their derby vehicles. Older domestic cars provide that lengthened crumple zone in the face and trunk of the car to team with high strength steel when the weight of a vehicle (for fuel efficiency) was not quite as big of a concern as it is today.
Modifications to demolition cars continue to demonstrate innovation at Valley Speedway. Spare tires are being used more on the rear ends of cars. The idea being that the smaller size of the wheel and tire will help prevent it from flattening or being bent in during collision racing. Solid wood landscape timbers for front bumpers are also in vogue as they do not bend as easily as metal. Oversized radiators protected by a variety of metal reinforcements to protect from being damaged or overheating round out the advantage’s drivers try to gain for competition.
Willie Brown who competes in the Summit Pizza sponsored 1986 Chevrolet Caprice was among those on hand to be a race ambassador and compete in the derby.
“I’ve grown up around demolition racing my whole life. They used to race back along the tree line here in the 1980’s and 1990’s when my cousin done it. That’s what got me into this sport,” Brown said.
“I’ve had this Caprice for about a year and put it together for competition within the last week. I don’t do this for the money, I do it for the fun of it. Hitting people is an adrenaline rush. It’s better to be the hammer instead of the nail.”
“Some people will hold back at the start of a race. I don’t hold back, I just hit people and let things play out.”
Above: Demolition driver Willie Brown participates in “meet the driver” at Trunk or Treat. Below: #81 Hawkins was the winner of the small budget class.
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.
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
by John Unrein
The anticipation ended and the Grain Valley Eagles sideline erupted as a pass to the end zone from Fort Osage quarterback Greg Menne fell to the ground incomplete on 4th down to the end the game. The shutout remained intact by the Eagles black shirt defense as they improved to a record of 6-0 with their 35-0 victory over the Fort Osage Indians on October 2nd.
The Eagles were unyielding in creating sacks, tackles for loss, and turnovers against their opponent. Grain Valley’s defensive line has been without an essential cog over the last two weeks. Senior Quincy Jones has been out with a shoulder injury. The combination of Josh McCoy, Ethan Schaaf, Grant Ward, and Sawyer Farris have teamed with Donovan McBride to make a formidable rotation up front for the Eagles.
“Quincy (Jones) is out right now and he’s a major contributor. We’ve been telling those guys, especially Schaaf, who’s a young guy that works his tail off every day to keep grinding. We are getting better each week,” McBride said.
“We keyed on their wing back tonight in making a ‘rhino’ call because we knew they were going to run. Our coaches continue to evaluate film and put us in the correct position to make plays. It makes our jobs easier to do as players.”
McBride, Farris, and McCoy each had a .5 sack and one tackle for a loss in treating the offensive lineman in front of them like turnstiles and spending a good portion of time in the Indians backfield. Elbow lifts and arm under techniques by the Eagles defensive front reigned as they executed fundamentals taught to them by defensive line coach Erik Stone.
The wry smile of Eagles defensive coordinator Pete Carpino after the game said it all. Grain Valley held Fort Osage to 106 yards of total offense on 59 plays, good for only 1.8 yards per play by the Indians. Carpino was quick to praise the effort of his coaches and players in preserving their shutout victory.
“Our defensive line did great. That group is starting to gel. We’ve also got a good one in Quincy Jones that we are looking forward to getting back. Guys that have ‘motors’ like they do, it makes a big difference. They might get beat on one play, but the next one they go at it again,” Carpino said.
“We talk and coach fundamentals a lot. We emphasized it at the half along with taking care of their gap of responsibility up front. We were gap sound pretty much the whole game and that leads you to play good defense.”
“Coach (Erik) Stone is a relentless football coach. He continually drills the defensive line. Just when you think he should stop, he does it some more. It makes a huge difference in the confidence of our kids. We’ve got some talented kids now and it pays off.”
Carpino continued, “I’ve seen Coach Stone coach kids hard who probably wouldn’t play on Friday night end up being really good contributors because they bought into what he was teaching. He’s an incredible coach. Our entire defensive staff does a great job. I can just put an umbrella up at practice and watch (Matt) Curts, (Dominic) Giangrosso, (Ben) Andes, and (Erik) Stone go to work,” Carpino stated with a chuckle.
The consistent pressure faced by Fort Osage led them to turn to fade passes and quick wide receiver screens to the outside of their formations. Grain Valley cornerbacks Trent Knox and Brayden Terry were up for the challenge. Both were fluid in turning their hips, leveraging inside position, and pursuing to the ball carrier.
Knox would force a key Fort Osage turnover at the 7:50 mark of the second quarter to go along with his 2 tackles. Terry would rack up 1.5 tackles as well, and both provided tight coverage on the outside of the Eagles defense.
“We had a big focus on their receivers. We let their short game happen (in front of us). Our job was to come up and secure the tackle in getting them on the ground. We gave them space (cushion) in our drops so that they didn’t hurt us with the vertical routes,” Knox said.
“I was successful in seeing the football (on the turnover) and punched it out before I hopped on it.”
Terry added, “They were trying to hit screens on us and got a few early in the game. The last one, I saw what they were going to do and came up and put a hit on the receiver.”
Rounding out the sound defensive effort by the Eagles was the play of linebackers Hunter Newsom, Zach Kirk, and Jayden Jacobson. Newsom would compile 14.5 total tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss. Kirk would continue his effective timing on blitzes and add 2 sacks to go along with his 7.5 tackles. Jacobson continues to be active in setting the edge (not allowing rushers to his outside shoulder) on his side of the defense. The senior outside linebacker would compile 4 tackles, including a .5 tackle for loss.
The confidence from their wrestling backgrounds displayed when tackling is apparent by Newsom and McBride. There is little hesitation in capturing an opponent’s legs and getting them on the ground. A benefit reaped from being a multi-sport athlete.
“The biggest thing with wrestling, and Donovan (McBride) can attest to this to, is that it helps you understand leverage. It gives you confidence in the timing and quickness of using your hips in getting to someone’s legs. That is why wrestlers make the best football players and vice versa,” Newsome said.
Offensively, Grain Valley continued their streak of scoring at least 30 points in each game they’ve played this season. It was not without adversity though.
Fort Osage, under the leadership of head coach Brock Bult game planned against the Eagles rushing attack and found success early in the contest by “pinching” (crossing the face of the offensive tackle or tight end in front of you to the inside gap) their defensive ends. This limited the previous success Grain Valley has enjoyed with running their “down” (off-tackle trap with a backside pulling guard) play.
Eagles head football coach David Allie responded by running outside with option plays, sweeps, and attacking the Indians single high safety with vertical passing route combinations. This mixture yielded 355 total yards for Grain Valley’s offense in what was a sensational night for quarterback Cole Keller.
Keller would rack up 145 yards on the ground to go along with 89 yards passing. The improved fundamental footwork of Keller when throwing the football under Allie’s tutelage has led to improved accuracy. Evidence of this can be found in Keller’s two touchdown passes that were executed with pinpoint precision.
Keller synchronizing the turning of his hips to the receiver and his back leg planted firmly in the ground while his lead leg is out in front has permitted his elbow to stay up and his hand come over the top cleanly in his release. Eagles wide receivers Carter Vrienich and Parker Bosserman each hauled in touchdown passes from Keller in the second and fourth quarters, respectively.
“Boss (Bosserman) requested the fade pass. When it’s someone like him, you’re going to trust him that it’s there. Sure enough, I put it up there and he made the catch,” Keller said.
“The one before the half to Carter (Vrienich) was a great play call. The safety was my read and I moved to get a better a look. ‘V’ (Vrienich) made a great catch and an even better run to extend our lead. I had a lot of time behind the line tonight.”
Allie appreciated his team’s effort along with finding opportunities for improvement after the game.
“We tried to find creases offensively that we could take advantage of. They did a good job of pinching their defensive ends against us, which we turned to the outside in our adjustment with moving the football,” Allie said.
“One thing I didn’t like was they (Fort Osage) had ‘juice’ or the energy to start the second half. We did not match it early on and then caught fire. We need to come out of the half better than that.”
“Our kids continue to believe in one another. The shutout by our defense tonight was awesome.”
Allie concluded, “Cole (Keller) is a confident player. Teams are going to continue to account for his running ability. His improved footwork (while passing) is a testament to him being committed to his craft. He has bought in and wants to play college football. He’s a sound leader for our team.”
Grain Valley (6-0) will host the William Chrisman Bears (1-5) at Moody Murray Stadium on October 9th.
Top: Donovan McBride and Hunter Newsom celebrate a big play by the Eagles defense. Below: Keller takes off down the Eagles sideline.
Photo credit: John Overstreet
by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles softball team dropped a late lead against the visiting Truman Patriots on October 6th. The Patriots would score three runs in the top of the 7th inning to push ahead for their 4-2 victory.
Grain Valley pitcher Hailey Hemme hung tough on the pitching slab despite not having her usual pinpoint control during the first inning. The sophomore hurler would go on to strike out 13, walk 2, and only give up one unearned run during the first six innings before Truman found success late in the game.
“I feel like I pitched good today, but it was not my best. I couldn’t have done as well as I did today without my defense behind me and Malia’s (Gutierrez) clutch hit,” Hemme said.
“I pitched better as the game went along by focusing on what I can control. We have to let this game get behind us and focus on district games (upcoming).”
Hemme was aided by the defense of first baseman Ella Clyman. The top of the fifth inning witnessed Clyman stretch to her right and grab a line drive in the top of her glove that was headed to right field, ending the inning. Clyman would turn in another gem during the top of the 7th inning with a diving catch attempt in foul territory near the Eagles dugout that was ruled a trap and not a catch. The effort drew applause from her dugout as well as fans from both schools in attendance.
Lady Eagles second basemen Malia Gutierrez had a successful day at the plate going 2 for 3. Her second hit was the biggest, producing a home run to left field that just cleared the fence during the top of the sixth inning. The drive by Gutierrez put the Eagles ahead temporarily. Grain Valley’s entire bench greeted Gutierrez at home plate after she rounded the bases.
Gutierrez plays on the same summer softball league team as Truman pitcher Myel White. The two exchanged glares after Gutierrez called time late in her at bat in the sixth inning prior to White starting her windup. The game of cat and mouse paid off for Gutierrez as she didn’t miss the fastball offering that was centered over the plate.
“I was trying to back my team today with my approach at the plate. I am proud of this team in that we put our hearts on the field and left everything out there,” Gutierrez said.
“I play on the same summer team as the pitcher (Myel White) and I had to think of her as not my teammate to be successful. I switched things up by stepping out (during my at bat). I still love her and she’s a good pitcher.”
“We are going to give it everything we have during district play. We have a stacked roster. We know where we should be and have to make it happen.”
Lady Eagles head softball coach Garrett Ogle was upbeat with the advice he shared with his team after the game. Ogle encouraged his players to realize that their season was not over, reminding them they have the opportunity to be conference or co-conference champs and that they still have a district title to go win.
“We’ve had composure all year long. There have been a lot of tight games we’ve played in this season. I think we’ve won five or six one run games so far. This team’s poise has been impeccable,” Ogle said.
“I had it in the back of my head that Malia (Gutierrez) was going to come through in the sixth (inning). After that I had faith in our defense and pitching that we were going to shut them out the rest of the way and get a victory.”
Ogle continued, “(Hailey) Hemme is a great competitor as well. Her hard work lends her to understand what’s not working and figure out what is. She doesn’t panic and works her way through.”
Grain Valley’s record moves to 20-4 on the season. The Lady Eagles will play the Belton Pirates on October 8th prior to the start of the Class 4, District 7 Tournament from October 13th-16th.
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles tennis program advanced to the District Finals with their 5-0 win against Belton on October 6th. The win moves the Eagles to an overall record of 5-7 for the season.
Individual winners for Grain Valley against Belton included Kylee Bragaw and Emma Thiessen. Doubles victors included Chelsea Gorden and Finley LaForge, along with Kennedi McCord and Bailey Jinkens. Grain Valley did have four other competitors who were leading their matches when play was halted due to the win threshold needed for district play being reached with five.
Lady Eagles head tennis coach Randy Draper was satisfied with the outcome of the district semifinal win along with keeping an eye on what is ahead.
“Anytime you have the opportunity to play for a District Championship it is a big deal. I am pleased with our progress as a team, so this is a good time to play,” Draper said.
Grain Valley will next host Belton (5-6 season record) on October 8th.
by John Unrein
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius once said, “The secret to victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.” The attention to detail paid by the Grain Valley Eagles football team has lifted them to a 5-0 undefeated start to the season. Consideration for the aspects of the game that are precise is apparent to anyone who has followed the Eagles this season.
Head football coaches from the high school to professional level will all tell you that culture is the hardest thing to build and has arrived in a program once accountability and intrinsic motivation is apparent among players and coaches. Grain Valley’s 38-14 victory over the visiting Kearney Bulldogs on September 25th was ripe with examples of both.
The Eagles have scored 30 or more points in all five of their contests this season. Their offense under the direction of Head Football Coach David Allie has taken advantage of what defenses have offered. Wide defensive ends have led to the Eagles running their “down” (off-tackle trap with a backside pulling guard) rushing play with much success. Inside alignment of a defensive end against a tight end means the Eagles will look to run their “George” (two pulling guards leading the quarterback sweep outside) rushing play. If a defense brings extra defenders in the “box” (area along the line of scrimmage between the offensive tackles), the Eagles will start throwing play action passes.
As easy as this sounds, it takes a coordinated effort by a coaching staff from the time they start watching film on Saturday, through teaching execution in practice of these plays against the defensive front they will face that week, to finally confirming what the defense is doing on Friday night and relaying that information via the headset to the head coach so informed decisions can be made that rack up yardage.
Kearney’s defensive scheme is a 3-3 Stack (meaning three down defensive lineman covering up three linebackers directly behind them). The goal of the defense is to protect linebackers so that they may roam freely and to break an offense’s blocking rules because of their unique alignment not being like a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. 3-3 Stack defense’s do not like seeing teams that get into unbalanced formations (multiple tight ends or a tight end and fullback to one side of the formation) because it forces them to break their “stack.” Furthermore, a 3-3 Stack defense may be susceptible to off-tackle “B Gap” plays that permit down blocks by offensive linemen that seal off the defense due to their alignment.
Grain Valley rushed the football 45 times for 265 yards, good for 5.9 yards per rush against the Bulldogs. Most of Jaxon Wyatt’s 157 yards on 31 carries was on the Eagle’s “down” play through “B Gap”. The junior running back tallied 2 rushing touchdowns as well behind the fierce effort of his offensive line.
One of the main men responsible for the Eagles success up front this year is offensive guard Jack Bailey. The senior is easy to identify not just by his size, but by the loud crack of pads that accompanies his kick out blocks when pulling. Bailey relishes his role with the team.
“Down was super successful tonight because of their ‘3-3 Stack’ alignment with one of their backers flexed out that left a huge bubble in B Gap. We would kick out their defensive end and the (play side) tackle would get up to the second level. We executed the play well repeatedly. Ear hole blocks against defenders are my favorite because they don’t know what’s coming until it’s too late,” Bailey said.
The Eagles offense routinely watches game film from the previous drive on the sideline during a game. An eye for detail prevails as assistant coaches Mike Tarrants and Gavin Grillo instruct players on their recent assignment and plays, including who to block or adjusting the path the running back should take on a play. This type of quick in game adjustment requires discipline in attention span for players and coaches and continues to pay dividends for the Eagles on the gridiron.
The play of Grain Valley’s offensive line has earned the respect of opponents as well. Greg Reynolds who was the longtime head coach of the Park Hill Trojans, now coaches the defensive line for the Oak Park Northmen. Reynolds shared with Allie after their week two matchup that the Eagles offensive line didn’t look like much until the ball is snapped. A compliment to how well the starting five for the Eagles execute their blocks.
Skill players for the Eagles offense have done their fair share of work blocking this season as well. Senior wide receiver Carter Day helped spring Wyatt down the Eagles sideline during his 27 yard jaunt during the first half. Day paid attention to detail by continuing to work his left arm under the defender in maintaining leverage and avoiding being flagged for holding.
Eagles senior quarterback Cole Keller joined in on the block party as well. Keller was the lead blocker on a 4 yard sweep by Wyatt that ended in a touchdown with under three minutes left in the first half. Grain Valley’s signal caller took out two defenders on the play by leading the way with his left shoulder. Keller was as excited coming to the Eagles sideline as he was after his two touchdown runs during the game. Keller would go on to compile 78 yards on the ground and 172 yards through the air.
Wyatt was appreciative after the win with the efforts of his teammates.
“This offense can’t do anything without our offensive line. The guys up front set the tone for what we do,” Wyatt said.
The defensive side of the football for the Eagles has shown discipline in their attention to detail as well. The growth of senior linebacker Zach Kirk is a prime illustration. Kirk shares his linebacker duties with fellow senior Hunter Newsom. Both have performed like they are attached by a bungie cord at the hip within their roles on the Eagles black shirt defense. When Newsom fills, Kirk replaces. When Kirk scrapes, Newsom shuffles that direction. This type of execution by the duo limits their opportunities in being out of position defensively.
Kirk would turn in two sacks in the win against Kearney. The first would come with :08 left in the first quarter and the next with 2:08 left in the second quarter. Both were made possible by Kirk taking the correct angle of pursuit to the quarterback on “whip” blitzes (the linebacker exchanging gaps with the defensive end) and wrapping up securely. Each sack halted the offensive momentum of Kearney’s drives.
“I want to think those around me. Me hitting someone doesn’t happen on my own. Our defensive line does a great job of holding down blockers. That allows me to make tackles for loss and sacks. This team has created something special and I want to continue the role we are on,” Kirk said.
“Getting to play next to Hunter (Newsom) is awesome. I always know he will do his job. He’s the leader of our defense and one of the best players I’ve seen in high school football. I wouldn’t want to play next to anyone else.”
Newsom added, “Zack has stepped up this year. We have great chemistry playing next to each other. There’s a high level of trust between us. Any mistakes made by us we meet with cheering for one another and moving on to the next play.”
Allie was proud of this team after their victory.
“Kearney has a reputation of being a physical football team. We answered the bell tonight,” Allie said.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We stuck to the crease we found in the running game. When they adjusted, we went to our ‘Q George’ (quarterback sweep) and play action game.”
Allie continued, “Zack (Kirk) is a program kid. He worked his tail off in the off season to get himself bigger and stronger and he’s really shined. Him and Newsom feed off each other. His desire has led him to care about doing the little things right.”
“The attitude this team has had over all is special. Especially, in the strange times we are living in. Nothing gets this team down. They want to work and enjoy playing the game.”
Grain Valley (5-0) will next visit the Fort Osage Indians (1-4) on October 2nd. Suburban Conference bragging rights will be on the line for each team.
by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles Softball team improved to 15-1 with their 8-0 victory over the visiting Fort Osage Indians on September 29th. Junior Avery Huffman went the distance for the Eagles on the mound racking up 14 strikeouts across seven shutout innings. The Eagles offense backed Huffman’s strong performance with nine hits, taking extra bases on passed balls, and exploding for four runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Huffman used her changeup when ahead in the count to help put away Fort Osage hitters. Huffman’s off speed offering dipped late in the zone as it crossed the plate and was hard to pick up for Indian hitters. Her efficiency in throwing strikes allowed her to work with good tempo on the mound and permitted the defense behind her to stay on their toes.
“I try to do my best each time I go out there. I have confidence in my defense behind me in their ability to make plays. That allows me to keep putting the ball over the plate,” Huffman said.
“My off speed pitch I have some days and others I don’t. It’s all by feel and today it was on. We are playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
The corners of the Eagles infield ignited their offense in the bottom of the first inning. Junior third baseman Brileigh Sims collected two RBI’s on her bases clearing double. She would be followed three batters later by sophomore first baseman Ella Clyman who’s RBI double extended Grain Valley’s lead.
“Avery (Huffman) is a great pitcher who holds the opposing team to low scores. We enjoy playing behind Avery and I am confident in our whole team,” Sims said.
“I was a little bit ahead on the ball today at the plate and that’s why I pulled a few. Trying to center it up in the zone was my approach. I think we are playing great and I hope this momentum helps us to win conference.”
Lady Eagles Head Softball Coach Garrett Ogle took advantage of the rainout on Monday before the game to take to the batting cages with his team and work on hitting. Ogle was equally pleased with what he saw at the plate by his team to go along Huffman’s excellent outing.
“Avery has been developing her changeup for a long time. As far as what count it was used in the game during a hitting sequence, that was all on our catcher Riley Downey. She calls the game for us and she did a great job today,” Olge said.
“The more significant speed drop-off in a softball changeup like Huffman has makes the timing for a hitter that much harder. A softball changeup can be twenty miles an hour less than a pitcher’s fastball.”
Ogle finished, “Our team had great at bats today collectively. Even if it wasn’t the result they wanted, we battled at the plate. This team likes to have fun, they know how to take care of business, and they like to be around one another. That makes them a joy to coach.”
The Eagles glut of games in their schedule at this point in the season will continue as they travel to play William Chrisman on October 1st. Grain Valley will then turn their attention to the Blue Springs Softball Tournament from October 2nd-3rd.
Above: Lauren Parker prepares to take a swing at bat.
Below: Avery Huffman warming up.
Photo credit: Valley News staff