by Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior wide receiver Logan Pratt was expected to be one of the football team's biggest weapons this season.
However, an ankle injury against Truman in Week 4 has slowed him down some the past few games and caused him to miss a Week 5 game against Kearney entirely.
In Friday’s Suburban White Conference contest against Raytown, the ankle didn’t appear to be bothering Pratt that much. He caught six passes from quarterback Caleb Larson for 120 yards and two touchdowns to help Grain Valley earn a 21-14 victory at Moody Murray Memorial Field.
“It feels good to finally connect with the QB and feel healthy again,” Pratt said. “After the game last Friday, the pain started to go away and I was thinking, ‘Alright, I can push through this.’ This week, it felt good.”
Larson, who completed 6 of 7 passes for 120 yards, targeted Pratt on all of his attempts. There was a reason for that. The senior runs a 40-yard dash time of 4.4 seconds and is a threat to beat any defense deep.
With the Eagles trailing Raytown 14-13 midway through the fourth period, Pratt beat a Raytown cornerback by a step and caught a 41-yard TD pass from Larson, which ended up being the game-winner. Wide receiver Brek Sloan ran it in on a reverse for a two-point conversion to make it 21-14.
“The struggle he has been through the last few weeks with his ankle being hurt, and not being able to play the full season last year, this game was one where he showed out,” Larson said. “He came in here with heart and passion even with his ankle hurting a little bit.”
Pratt also got wide open on a 25-yard TD pass in the second quarter, which was sandwiched between field goals of 40 and 47 yards from kicker Austin Schmitt, which helped the Eagles take a 13-0 lead in the first half.
A healthy Pratt is a game changer for the Eagles, said head coach David Allie. On Friday, he accounted for 120 of the Eagles 179 yards of offense.
“It’s good to have him back close to 100 percent,” Allie said. “That outside threat is very hard to cover. Teams are going to have to account for that and they might have to double team him. That takes one of the guys who try to stop the run, to help out on Logan. That can open up some running lanes or passing lanes for us.”
Meanwhile, the defense continued to play well. This was the sixth time in eight games that Grain Valley (5-3, 3-1 conference) held an opponent to 14 points or less. It also held the Blue Jays to just 219 total yards.
“Coming into the season, we knew we had some experience coming back up front and in the secondary,” Allie said, “but the linebackers were inexperienced. “They’ve really shined and helped put our defense in the right position. They got some big tackles for loss when we needed them.”
Forkner is one of those linebackers as he led the defense with 8.5 tackles, two for a loss and one sack. His sack came at a big time in the game when Raytown was ahead 14-13 early in the fourth period. The Blue Jays had a chance to extend the lead as it got a first down on third-and-18 and got the ball to the Grain Valley 32-yard line.
The Eagles defense tightened up and was aided by a pair of Raytown penalties. Forkner sacked quarterback Nate Whitebear for a 12-yard loss. On third-and-30, defensive end Rhylan Alcanter brought down Whitebear in the backfield for another 7-yard loss, forcing a punt of fourth down.
“We had a heck of a night and played smash mouth football,” junior defensive end Jake Allen said, who had 6.5 tackles, two of which went for a loss.
”It’s not about the size of the dog but the size of the fight in the dog.”
After Grain Valley got the touchdown and two-point conversion on the ensuing drive, the defense got its most important stop of the game. Raytown had fourth-and-2 at its own 30-yard line and Allen and linebacker Brody Baker read the option run by Whitebear and stopped him before he could reach the first-down marker to get a turnover on downs with 2 minutes left.
“I saw their back roll out and I read the guard,” said Baker, who had five tackles. “The defensive tackles did a great job up front which allowed us linebackers to roam free.”
“Jake has a lot of energy. In the locker room, he’s a different animal.”
The Grain Valley offense ran the clock down to 55 seconds on offense before punting the ball back to the Blue Jays. Raytown didn’t cross midfield as time expired.
Raytown got a touchdown with 26 seconds left on an 18-yard screen pass from Whitebear to running back Zhamari Gary.The Blue Jays took the lead with 1:30 left in the third period following a 1-yard run from Gary out of the Wildcat formation.
Grain Valley will have a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Class 5 District 7 tournament with a win over Belton, which is currently the two-seed, next Friday. That would assure the Eagles home field advantage throughout the district bracket and a first-round bye.
“The last four games have been really physical for us, so that bye is really important for us,” Grain Valley head coach David Allie said. “Having that No. 1 seed is important, but we have to take care of business against Belton.”
Senior wide receiver Logan Pratt caught six passes from quarterback Caleb Larson for 120 yards and two touchdowns to help Grain Valley earn a 21-14 victory. Photo credit: John Overstreet
by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley Boys soccer team has been one that has focused on defense and low scoring games in the past couple of years and at near the beginning of the season.
In Wednesday’s contest against William Chrisman, the Eagles showed they had some offensive firepower by creating several opportunities, but they struggled to finish in a 2-1 loss at home.
“In the last four to five games, we haven’t been lacking in opportunities,” Grain Valley head coach Brett Lewis said. “It’s just we knew coming into tonight, we were playing a really good team and it would come down to who could finish their opportunities.
“I think we had more shots on goal. We created more chances. They didn’t. But they buried their chances, and we did not.”
Grain Valley has averaged 3.5 goals per contest in their last 10 games. Lately, the Eagles have been better at creating chances and creating offense on the opponent’s third of the field.
“We have been working on things in practice to help us create more opportunities in the opponent’s third of the field,” Lewis said. “We want to get our outsides and get guys running through in the middle of the field. We are able to be more dynamic and we’re tougher to defend now.”
Grain Valley’s lone goal came in the first half when Carter Compton sent a centering pass to his twin brother Kade in the penalty box as the latter buried the shot in the box. The brothers have been a huge part of Grain Valley’s resurgence on offense.
“There have been several goals in the past four or five games where it’s Carter to Kade or Kade to Carter,” Lewis said. “They’re dynamic and they work their tails off.”
Chrisman sophomore Adrian Cisneros scored Chrisman’s goal in the first half when he buried a shot inside the Eagles penalty box after receiving a pass from junior Mitchell Cory.
Then a mistake in the middle of the field led to the Chrisman counterattack and freshman Trevor Jolley punching a shot inside the right post from the left side that made it 2-1.
It was the giveaway in the middle of the field that Lewis pointed out was the turning point.
“We had a really bad giveaway that led to a counterattack in the middle of the field and he goes and buries it on the lower right,” Grain Valley coach Brett Lewis said of Jolley’s goal.
”Our guy had as good six or seven feet of space and had a bad first touch. If you do that against a good team, they will punish you.”
Grain Valley and Chrisman were about equal in time of possession and the Eagles had four shots on goal that were all stopped by Bears goalkeeper Javier Ortiz-Merino.
“We know we will probably see them again in districts,” Lewis said of Chrisman. “They are a good team that has speed up top. We know the margin for error is so low. We hope to learn from our mistakes and finish our opportunities.”
For the first time in school history, the Grain Valley Girls Tennis team is headed to State competition as a team. Following a 5-0 win against Carl Junction on Tuesday, the team heads to State competition Thursday and Friday.
“This group has won all four regular season tournaments. Three of those were the first time our program had won that particular tournament, head coach Randy Draper said.
“The thing that stands out is the depth of our line-up. In our District Championship match against St. Pius, everyone in our top six won at least one match and we needed every win. Our Doubles play put us in a great position against Carl Junction.”
“This team has become very close. With 5 out of 6 of us all playing together last year, we have become comfortable with each other and have all grown together. I’m so honored to be apart of the first tennis team from Grain Valley to go State (as a team), senior Chelsea Gorden said.
“We are one of the 4 left out of 54. I think our relationships with each other is what makes us play so well with each other. Although tennis is an individual sport, the team aspect of it does matter, especially yesterday (against Carl Junction).”
Following a rainy district tournament, the GVHS Girls Golf team finished third with a team score of 397. Charli Dressen, Seena Tyler, and freshman Mallory Crane qualified for their first State tournament.
“This felt amazing to achieve and it meant so much to me. I have worked this whole season for this and getting the opportunity to go to State is something I have dreamed of since the beginning of the season,” Crane said.
“Getting to finally accomplish this as a freshman is a big deal and was even a little emotional to my family and I. I didn’t play my best yesterday and I had quite a few bad holes, but I pushed through all of them and finished with a lot of good holes.”
by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley offense had its struggles against a strong Fort Osage defense in last week’s 9-8 loss.
While the offense sputtered, the defense was strong and kept the team in the game. In Friday’s contest, Grain Valley excelled on both sides of the ball while Larson led the offense in a 45-7 rout of the Bears at Independence All-School Stadium.
With the Bears committing most of its defenders in the box to stop the Eagles run game, Caleb Larson took advantage in the passing game. He finished by completing 9 of 15 passes for 114 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Larson used run-pass options to fool the Bears defense. The first play of that kind went for a 39-yard touchdown pass to Brek Sloan on a slant route in the first quarter to make it 7-0.
“That was awesome,” Larson said. “Coming in, under the circumstances he was in, he made a big play and that’s really good for him.”
He threw an interception later in the period but he didn’t let that affect him.
“You just have to shake it off, it’s too early in the game to get down on yourself and think you’re not going to do anything,” Larson said of his interception. “I had to get that one back. The team did really well and I had great blocking and the receivers caught the ball. That’s all that matters.”
Grain Valley head coach David Allie said he was impressed with pre-snap adjustments Larson made.
“He had a couple of hot routes, hit some hitches and made some good checks,” Allie said of Larson. “I thought he did a great job managing the game.”
Larson also ran the ball 10 times for 81 yards and a rushing touchdown. Freshman running back DJ Harris added 62 yards on 10 carries and a score. Fifty-nine of those yards came on a drive late in the first period when he scored on a 2-yard run to give his team a 14-0 lead.
Grain Valley (4-3) scored 21 points in the second quarter, with a fumble recovery by Brody Baker and an interception from junior linebacker Cole Elliott led to a 20-yard TD run from Larson and a 11-yard scoring strike from Larson to a wide-open Logan Pratt on a play action pass. Sandwiched between those scored was a 16-yard TD pass from Larson to sophomore receiver Anthony Greco, whom the junior signal caller is building a strong rapport with, on a similar play action pass from the pistol formation.
“Our relationship is starting to build,” Larson said of Greco, whom he targeted seven times. “I am trusting him more and more. He’s going to be my main target for the next few years.”
The Eagles went into halftime up 35-0 and capped their scoring in the third period with a 5-yard TD run by senior running back Jaxon Wyatt and a 41-yard field goal from Austin Schmidt.
The Bears didn’t score until there was 1:15 left in the game against the Grain Valley reserves on defense.
The Eagles have held their last three opponents to just 9.6 points per game and limited the Bears to 163 total yards, 62 of which came against the Eagles backups.
“That backfield (for Chrisman) is explosive,” Allie said. “And they have a great quarterback. We came into the game thinking we had our work cut out for us. The defense did a good job of containing the run, I think they had one big one.
“We talked about that. If we could keep them from not having runs over 20 yards, we could be successful. We did a good job of not letting that happen. The defense has been playing well all season.”
Sophomore Gabe Storment and juniors Keagan Hart also had interceptions. Camden Nelson got the Eagles (4-3, 2-1 Suburban Middle Six Conference) lone sack and senior linebacker Owen Perkins led Grain Valley with 4.5 tackles.
“We’ve really stepped it up this year,” Hart said of the defense. “We have lost a lot of starters (from last year’s team) but it doesn’t really matter. Day in and day out, we are going to go out there and work.
“We got pressure up front on their quarterback and allowed the linebackers and myself to get what we needed to be.”
Caleb Larson led the offense in a 45-7 rout of the Bears at Independence All-School Stadium.
Photo credit: John Overstreet
After the Friday night lights of Grain Valley High School football games have faded, the next generation of Eagles take to the field on Saturdays each fall.
The Grain Valley Sports League (GVSL) offers football, flag football, cheer, and basketball leagues for youth in Grain Valley.
GVSL is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors and led and organized by an army of parent coaches and volunteers.
Coach Robbie Schatzer played college football and became involved as a coach when his son began playing football with the league. Schatzer has volunteered with the league for three years. On a recent Saturday afternoon, we caught up with Schatzer as his third grade team took to the field for a game.
“At this level, they are working on the fundamentals of the game. Holding onto the ball, and learning how to block and drive,” Schatzer said.
As the boys began warm ups, we asked Schatzer what the most challenging part of the game is for students at this age.
“Attentiveness,” Schatzer said with a smile.
“A lot of kids are timid about running the ball at this age. We work on getting them out of that with a series of drills.”
Schatzer also coaches a 7th grade team that took the field at Moody Murry Stadium later that evening.
Cheer coach April Watkins was on the sidelines as Schatzer’s third grade team prepared to take the field. Equipping a boisterous group of girls with pom poms, Watkins quickly had the crew prepped and lined up to get the crowd going.
The GVSL cheer program consists of 45 youth in Kindergarten—6th grade. Students focus on basic fundamentals of cheer and learning the basics of football, so they know when their team is on offense or defense.
Watkins said the cheer program is taking a break from cheering the League’s basketball program due to COVID-19, but are getting plenty of opportunities to cheer for the Eagles during football season.
Basketball signups are now available for boys and girls in Kindergarten—7th grade.
For more information and to register, visit the Grain Valley Sports League’s website at www.grainvalleysportsleague.com.
by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley boys and girls teams hadn’t run the cross country course at Grain Valley North Middle School all season.
Junior Carson Hill has never run on the course even though it’s located in his hometown.
That didn’t stop him or his boys team from having a strong showing at the eighth annual Sock It To Cancer Grain Valley Invitational Saturday. In fact, Hill won the individual title, while his team also finished atop the podium with 22 points.
The girls team took second with 48 points. Blue Springs won with 32.
Hill easily took first with a time of 16:39. He finished ahead of teammate Mason McCain, who was a second-place finisher at 17:05.8. It was Hill’s third first-place finish of the year.
“I always aim for first, but I undoubtedly knew I’d get it today,” Hill said.
Grain Valley head coach Nick Small said Hill has been a leader for the team and has displayed a team-first mentality.
“We’re excited about his progression,” Small said of Hill. “He broke the course record today and that was cool to see happen. He has his head on straight and he’s a humble kind of guy. I am excited to see what he can do moving forward.”
The course was a difficult one for some runs as it featured many hills during the final mile. But it was something McCain was used to.
“I live about a mile from here,” McCain said. “I run here often. I am pretty used to this course, and I think it was pretty fun.”
“We came out pretty hard and tried to hang on for as long as possible. It’s pretty fun to be able to run with Carson for a little bit.”
Small said he’s been impressed with how much McCain has improved since the beginning of the season.
“He has improved his mindset and his approach,” Small said of McCain. “Being teammates with Carson has helped him a lot and has helped him realize that he can run with those top guys.”
Rounding out the times for Grain Valley were sophomore Adrian Bobzien (fourth, 18:00.5), senior Jackson Williams (seventh, 18:38.4), sophomore Chris Fossinger (eighth, 18:45), freshman David Roberson (13th, 19:06.9) and freshman Landon Barnes (15th, 19:06.9).
“I think our team has a legitimate shot to make state as a team,” McCain said. “We were all right at the beginning of the season. Now everyone is focused.
For the girls team, Ella Casey led the way for the Eagles as she took third with a time of 20:58.1. While it’s a strong finish, the senior wasn’t satisfied with the result.
“I wasn’t super happy with it,” Casey said of her final time, but it’s not bad considering the conditions of this course.
“Right at the 2K mark, it’s really hilly. My time was a lot slower than usual but that’s taking into account all of the hills.”
Like Hill and McCain, Small has noticed improvement from Casey.
“She’s kind of turned the corner, too,” Small said. “She has made a lot of progress this season. Ella has ups and downs, but this season, she has really decided to get after it since it’s her senior year. I have been excited about her season.”
Finishing second on the team and seventh overall was freshman Amyah Grayball, who finished at 21:24.
“I felt good. It was a nice day,” Graybill said. “There’s a lot of incline on this course. You really have to lean into it.
“I wasn’t really expecting a (personal record) because of all the hills on this course.”
Rounding out the times for Grain Valley were sophomore Kayley Bell (10th, 21:37.9), junior Lexie Nicholson (12th, 22:00.3), freshman Jordan Gossage (16th, 22:12.7) and senior Gabby Valverde (17th, 22:21.6).
“Our last race, we were almost back-to-back finishing,” Graybill said. “We stayed pretty close together. That’s something we are good at.”
After shutting out Raytown 10-0 on Monday, October 4th, the Grain Valley Softball team continued its winning streak with a 12-1 win against Truman on Tuesday, October 5th.
Pitcher Hailey Hemme struck out 9 in 5 innings against Raytown on Monday, and Cameryn Bown racked up 3 RBIs.
The Eagles continue faced conference opponent Belton on October 6th..
Grain Valley Boys soccer won 6-2 vs. Raytown on October 5th, improving their record to 7-5 for the season. Austin Schmitt scored 3 goals for the Eagles, with Micah Siems, Owen White, and Carter Compton each contributing a goal to the win.
The Eagles face Ladue at home at 2:00pm on October 9th.
by Michael Smith
A week after forcing three turnovers in a strong defensive effort against Kearney, the Grain Valley defense showed once again that it’s one of the strongest units in the Kansas City area.
The Eagles were able to hold a Fort Osage team in check that came into Friday’s game at Moody Murray Memorial Field averaging 39 points per game. However, costly mistakes and a little bit of bad luck doomed the Eagles in a 9-8 loss in a Suburban White Conference game.
“We unfortunately couldn’t get out of our own way offensively,” Grain Valley head coach David Allie said, whose team had eight penalties for 50 yards.
“We’d get some yardage then get a penalty. It’s stuff we can control but we didn’t tonight. We can’t beat ourselves”
It was a defensive battle early on as the game was tied at 0 going into the second quarter. The Eagles finally broke through with 4:34 left in the third when senior Tristin Pouncil blocked a punt from Greg Menne which was kicked out of bounds for a safety and a 2-0 Grain Valley lead.
On Fort Osage’s ensuing drive, junior linebacker Cole Elliott jumped a route from wide receiver Lorezo Fenner and intercepted a pass from Menne and returned it to the Indians 24-yard line. On third down, quarterback Caleb Larson fit a pass between two Fort Osage defense backs as sophomore wide receiver Anthony Greco made a leaping catch for a touchdown at the 1:09 mark to make it 8-0.
Larson, who was holding the ball for an extra point attempt from kicker Austin Schmidt pulled the ball and tried to find a receiver in the end zone. His pass fell incomplete as the 2-point attempt failed.
The 8-0 lead held until halftime, but when the third quarter started, that’s when the bad luck hit the Eagles. Schmidt, who is normally automatic in terms of kicking touchbacks, had a short kick that landed around the Fort Osage 19-yard line.
Indians wide receiver Lorenzo Fenner turned the kick into a big return and made it to the Eagles 2-yard line. Fort Osage almost gave the ball away on a muffed snap on the first play, but the senior running back Javon Hall leaped over the Eagles defensive line for a 3-yard touchdown run that narrowed the gap to 8-6 after a failed two-point conversion at the 11:24 mark in the third period.
“He slipped,” Allie said of Schmidt’s kickoff. “The turf was wet. That was bad luck. We obviously don’t want to kick it to that dude.”
On Grain Valley’s next drive, it made it into Fort Osage territory for the fourth time. Early in the drive, Grain Valley starting running back Jaxon Wyatt injured his ankle and did not come back into the game.
That left the Eagles (3-3, 1-1 conference) with just one-half of their dynamic running back duo in freshman DJ Harris. On fourth-and-1 from the Fort Osage 33, he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage for a turnover on downs.
That was the story for the Grain Valley rushing attack which only accumulated 77 yards, with 55 of those coming from Larson. The Eagles had a hard time blocking Fort Osage nose tackle Brock Bransteitter, who helped stuff Eagle runs up the middle.
“They had a big ol’ nose (tackle) that we didn’t do a good job against,” Allie said. “He gave us fits inside.”
After the Indians (5-1, 3-0 conference) got the ball back, they made it to the Grain Valley 14 before the Eagles forced a fourth down. Kicker Xander Shepherd was able to sneak a 31-yard field goal inside the right post to give his team the lead for good with 1:52 remaining in the third.
Late in the fourth quarter, Grain Valley had one last chance to score. On third-and-1, Harris, who has been a productive player for the Eagles all season, got enough yards for a first down. A subsequent fumble was recovered by junior outside linebacker Ryan Thorpe at the Fort 37.
With just a little more than 3 minutes remaining, Fort Osage ran out the rest of the clock.
The Eagles defense was a bright spot. They held Fort Osage to just 148 total yards. The effort was led by senior linebacker Gage Forkner, who had 10 tackles and junior defensive end Jake Allen who had a team-high 1.5 sacks.
“Our defense stepped up,” Allie said. “To hold that offense to (nine) points is pretty phenomenal.”
The Eagles defense was a bright spot. They held Fort Osage to just 148 total yards. The effort was led by senior linebacker Gage Forkner (#7 right foreground), who had 10 tackles and junior defensive end Jake Allen (#20) who had a team-high 1.5 sacks.
Photo credit: John Overstreet