by John Unrein
Being a college freshman on a new campus can be full of trepidation. A typical eighteen or nineteen year old may ask themselves, “How will I react being away from home?” or “Will I meet people that can become my friends?” And do not forget “Will the cafeteria food be good, and will I excel academically at this level?”
Add to that list the rigors of being a student athlete committed to playing NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) football that will be assimilating to the new culture of a second family. You can see how all this may be a big moment in the life of a young person. Such is the future for Grain Valley High School seniors Donovan McBride and Hunter Newsom.
McBride has recently announced his verbal commitment to play NCAA Division I football for Murray State University. The school is situated in Murray, Kentucky and nestled in the Southwest corner of the state. The 2020 enrollment listed for the university is 9,569 students and the Murray State Racers are under the direction of Dean Hood, a 30 year veteran of college football.
McBride is happy with his scholarship offer and pleased with the way that Murray State has stayed in touch with him throughout the recruitment process. The 6’ 4” 270 pound defensive lineman will be playing in the nearly 17,000 seat Roy Stewart Stadium next fall.
“I had a lot of schools reach out to me during the recruitment process. I chose Murray State because of their consistency. They made it a point to ask how my family was doing, to check with me to see how my grades were, and how my football season was going on a weekly basis. They no doubt want me to be a part of their program,” McBride said.
“Obviously, I am little anxious about what is ahead. Some of the guys I will be facing are going to be bigger and stronger initially, and some will have kids for crying out loud.”
McBride continued, “On the other hand, I am ready to play football again. I miss it. I am looking forward to being a part of a team that have eleven guys on each side of the football ready to get after it.”
McBride’s unselfishness was on display this fall for the Eagles. Starting along the offensive line as a center and learning the position over the summer paid dividends for Grain Valley head football coach David Allie. McBride would play both ways along the offensive and defensive lines, including both at defensive tackle and defensive end as a member of the Eagles black shirt defense. The Eagles would march on to a 10-2 record that would consist of a share of the Suburban Conference White Division Football Championship.
“Donovan McBride has meant so much to the team for four years. It seems like yesterday that he was a 7th grader coming to our Youth Camp, impressing the coaches at all positions, not just on the line. He was such an athletic and hardworking player then; we knew there would be something special for him in his future and for the future of GVHS football. He did not disappoint,” Allie said.
“He has been a four-year starter and letter-winner for us and brought a level of consistency and accountability to our defensive unit that will be hard to replace. He brought that same stability to the offensive side during the 2020 season as well, and for a player of his size and strength, it amazed us that he rarely asked to come off the field and sometimes had to be dragged to the sideline to get rest.”
Allie added, “His numerous All Conference, All District, and All State awards attest to his ability as a player, but that is just part of what made Donovan such a great member of the Eagle Football Family. Besides his physical prowess and maturity, he has also always been emotionally mature. Of course, kids are kids, and he would sometimes do the silly things that adolescent males do. But for a great majority of the time, and when our team really needed to look to somebody for leadership and guidance, Donovan was that pillar of confident strength.”
“We have counted on him for so long he has become a "fixture" on our defense. I know it will almost feel surreal to step on the field next year and realize that he (and a few of his classmates) are no longer on the team.”
Number 25 for the Eagles will have a new home as well this fall. Newsom has announced his verbal commitment to the University of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The public university is in Rapid City, South Dakota and had a 2020 enrollment of 2,529.
The Hardrockers play Division II NCAA football and are under the direction of head coach Charlie Flohr. The 6’ 1” 200 pound Newsom double dipped both as a linebacker and running back for the Eagles this football season. Newsom’s enthusiasm for tackling and his ability to avoid blockers will be on display northwest of Grain Valley in 2021.
Newsom was frequently a captain for the Eagles during the pregame coin toss. A mantle of leadership earned and well deserved by Newsom. One that Allie is proud to have coached and will miss next season as new leaders emerge in the Eagles program.
“Hunter Newsom is one of the finest leaders we have ever had at GVHS. One true mark of a leader is that they use every resource available to improve themselves. Hunter was blessed to have two really good leaders (Kole Wagener and Seth Dankenbring) precede him at Inside Linebacker, and he took their examples and improved on them,” Allie said.
“He was also very coachable, willing to take constructive criticism and work on the little things that his coaches, and that he himself, saw that needed to be improved. In addition to his adaptability, he was also relentless on the field and in the weight room. He is a prime example of why wrestlers make great football players and vice versa – the only way to make him quit attacking is to carry him off on a stretcher.”
“His internal drive to succeed made him a great linebacker and running back for us and such hard-nosed play inspired his teammates and helped him become one of the most award-winning players in GVHS history. His selection as First Team Coaches and Media All-State, three different recognitions for Defensive Player of the Year, the All-Simone Team, our team's Napier Award (a legacy award given to the most outstanding Eagle football player), and a handful of other awards are tribute to how good of a player he was.”
Allie concluded, “However, I have a feeling that to him, the most meaningful award he won as an Eagle football player was being elected team captain. His resilience and perseverance showed in the classroom as well, being recognized three times as part of the Academic All-State Team. But if you ask the best thing about him, no matter whether he was excelling on the field and in the classroom or if he was suffering under a pile of weights or running sprints, he always had a smile on his face and was happy just to have an opportunity to be there.”
Both McBride and Newsom have committed to continue as student athletes at the post-secondary level. The Eagles are likely to have other seniors who will be blessed to receive scholarship offers and make announcements in the coming days and weeks. No doubt a sign of hard work and commitment.
“It definitely fills us with pride to see a player who has toiled and sweated for four years be able to reap the rewards of his hard work and effort on the field and in the classroom,” Allie said.
“To me, football is the greatest sport in the world, but most of us are only able to play it competitively for a short time. Any chance that a person can get to continue playing this ultimate-of-sports is cause for celebration. Unfortunately, the truth is even fewer will be lucky enough to play this (or any) sport professionally, so they will have to prepare for a career outside of the game.”
“That is the true reason to celebrate these young men getting the opportunity to continue playing; it means they are getting a chance to go to school to receive training for their future career. When you add the multiplying effect of being exposed to even more lessons from the great game itself, networking with more friends and acquaintances while in college, and simply growing and maturing into adulthood, the opportunity for a scholarship to play a sport becomes one of the most valuable things a person could ever receive.”
by John Unrein
Three distinct things garner your attention upon entering the Grain Valley Eagles wrestling building behind the high school: a sign taped to the door requesting that a mask is worn upon entering the facility, a large cutout of an Eagle in a wrestling singlet, and the ritual of spike ball being played by those who get to practice early.
For those of a certain age or unfamiliar with spike ball, think of an equivalent of four square being played by contestants as they spike a ball into a small trampoline net. The benefits of the game become easily apparent with the agility and quickness required by participants, not to mention the laughter and smiles that accompany the competition. Such is the design of Eagles head wrestling coach Jeff Bowman who is in his second year at the helm.
Bowman is notably proud of his team, including freshman Sevi Aumua. The 151 pound weight class grappler loves wrestling for the competition it brings, the camaraderie from being around her teammates and coaches, and the confidence gained from learning self-defense.
Aumua’s entry to practice coincides with that of her quiet and unassuming nature. Her male teammates are quick to say “Hi” and share the latest funny Tik Tok video or Snapchat from a group of friends.
Aumua got started in wrestling through attending the meets and practices of her younger brother. Her parents noticed how Aumua paid keen attention to what was happening and encouraged her to consider taking up the sport. From her first club practice, Aumua was hooked and has continued wrestling at the high school level.
“I feel like there are people who think that girls can’t wrestle. I have met that criticism, and I would like that myth destroyed. I am a competitive person that likes winning. The joy you get from a win brings enjoyment to the whole team. It is an accomplishment past you,” Aumua said.
“I like going to the weight room in the summer to get stronger. I stay busy with schoolwork and playing multiple sports. I play football in the fall and soccer in the spring as well.”
Aumua’s competitive streak was also apparent for the Eagles this fall. Aumua could be identified more by her long black braided hair coming out of the back of her helmet instead of shying away from contact at the line of scrimmage. Evidence of this could be heard as much as seen from the “popping” sound that would come from Aumua pulling from the offensive guard position and kicking out the edge defender on the Eagles “down” or off-tackle trap running play.
When Aumua does find time to relax, she enjoys nature walks and writing poetry. Counting how many animals she can hear or see on a jaunt to unwind is equally matched by creating rhymes that demonstrate expression.
“My long term goals include figuring out what college to attend. I am focused on wrestling and hope it can bring me a scholarship in the future. I am just a freshman, but I look forward to my future.”
by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles basketball team opened the Pleasant Hill Basketball Tournament with a win over the Pembroke Hill Raiders, 71-44 on January 11th. The Lady Eagles opened the game with full court pressure that led to turnovers and transition scoring opportunities for Grain Valley. The result was an 18-3 first quarter lead for the Lady Eagles that they continued to build on as the game progressed.
Sound floor spacing, movement without the basketball, decisive passing, and avoiding turnovers permitted the Lady Eagles to top the 70 point plateau. Furthermore, the Lady Eagles continue to grow in their ability to find open looks at the basket by being disciplined offensively. This feat is significant as seven Grain Valley freshmen and sophomores saw significant playing time on the court during the contest.
Grain Valley sophomore point guard Grace Slaughter led all scorers with 35 points, to which she added 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. A strong supporting cast around Slaughter included fellow sophomore Ella Clyman and freshman McKenah Sears. Clyman would add 9 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. Sears would have one of her strongest outings during her young varsity career. The freshman’s stat line included 5 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block.
“We came out ‘boom’ ready to play, and wanted to attack being on who we were to defend. We have worked a lot in practice on full court press and denying passing lanes when applying pressure,” Slaughter said.
“Ball movement tonight was big in us getting the looks we did (at the basket). I am proud of my team and how we played.”
Clyman added, “My hustle tonight was the contribution I made to our win. Boxing out led us to be good on the boards. Our intensity and willingness to work as a team was fun to watch.”
Sears concluded, “My faith in the Lord has led to the growth in my abilities. My teammates supporting me has been huge as well. They are always there for me. I am learning that when I drive (to the basket) there will be people open like Grace and Ella. Coach (Randy) Draper puts us in the correct spot as well.”
Lady Eagles head basketball coach Randy Draper was satisfied with how his team performed as the second seed in the tournament against the seventh seed Raiders. Draper acknowledged that the youth of his team contributes in different ways with the bottom line being that they are connected by being basketball players who enjoy the game.
“The press we started the game with tonight was predetermined, but it’s something that I like to do anyway. The mindset of it pushes our team to be engaged and on point from the outset,” Draper said.
“The growth and belief in themselves that the youth of this team is displaying is special. Our hope has always been that we would keep marching and that everyone would move forward. Tonight, was a good gauge that members of this team are making big steps (of progress), and they will need to continue as our competition ahead will be tough.”
Draper added, “Grace is hard to guard, because of the dilemma of who do you guard her with. She can post, drive, and pull up from long and intermediate ranges. She is not fun to guard. Our offense continues to grow in that we are not playing to her (Slaughter), instead we are playing through her. There’s a difference, and if we continue to do that, things will continue to be good for us.”
The Lady Eagles improve to 5-3 on the season with their win. The Pleasant Hill Basketball Tournament continues with the consolation game on January 14th and the Championship game on January 15.
by John Unrein
The ebb and flow of a hard fought game did not go the way of the Grain Valley Eagles boys basketball team in their matchup against the Belton Pirates on December 5th. The Eagles would drop the contest to the Pirates by a score of 64-51 despite robust growth being demonstrated by a youthful Grain Valley squad.
Grain Valley opened the game with a full court press against Belton and trapping the ball as much as possible. The result yielded a 7-0 run by the Eagles and forced the Pirates to call a timeout and regroup.
Grain Valley was able to counter the defensive pressure applied by Belton early in the game due to the ball handling of junior point guard Cylas Brewer. The varsity stage was not too big for the scrappy Brewer in just his second full varsity game since being moved up from the junior varsity roster.
The first quarter would end with a 17-17 tie prior to momentum shifting towards the Pirates during the second and third quarters. Belton would lean on the scoring of guard Giovanni Mack, who contributed 11 of his 21 overall points for the game during the second quarter, including a trio of three pointers from behind the arc. Belton would also lean on their athleticism, strong on the ball defense, and turnovers by Grain Valley leading to points in transition for the Pirates to forge a 38-26 halftime lead.
A determined Eagles squad emerged from locker room for the second half with a vocal Cole Keller encouraging his teammates. Among those hearing from the senior forward was his counterpart in the post, sophomore forward Alex Snyder. A recent growth spurt by Snyder has left him being close in height to the 6’ 5” Keller. Both would end up just one point shy of a double-double (a player accumulating a double-digit total in two of five statistical categories—points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots in a single game).
Keller’s stat line would include 23 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 4 blocks. Snyder would contribute 9 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block. Both Keller and Snyder are aware of the development their team is displaying as the season progresses. Snyder has accepted Keller pushing him, and Keller is focused on where his team is at the end of February.
“Our effort was good tonight as a team. We showed up ready to play, but you can’t win them all. Cole (Keller) has been pushing me to the ‘max’ in practice and that has helped improve my confidence with what I do on the floor,” Snyder said.
“There are guys on this team that are taking off their varsity training wheels, and we are working to compete in every game we play. The improvement is apparent. The game we played tonight would not have been this close had we played it week one,” Keller said.
“Alex took ten shots tonight in the game, which is a new high for him. Avery Garmon hit two three pointers. Owen (Herbert) continues to score for us. I’m less worried about our current record and more about what happens in February, when things matter the most in basketball.”
None of Owen Herbert’s 11 points were bigger for the Eagles then the three pointer he sank to open the fourth quarter. Herbert’s basket cut the Belton lead to 6 points by a score 48-42, prior to Belton pulling away at the end of the game.
Grain Valley head boys basketball coach Andy Herbert kept things in perspective with his postgame comments.
“We had good stretches in this game tonight. Part of being young and inexperienced is maintaining the focus to play with the edge needed in a varsity game. We are still building that as a team. The problem comes when a turnover or a missed block out becomes two or three,” Herbert said.
“Alex (Snyder) has grown in a couple of a ways. He’s starting to believe in himself and realizing he can play at this level. There is not an abundance of people who can ran and jump like he can, and for that matter Cole (Keller) as well.”
Herbert concluded, “This entire team has made strides from game one to game seven and will continue to do so. We still have a ways to go though. There are good things happening and we have to get more consistent.”
Grain Valley (1-6) will next travel to Raytown to face the Blue Jays at 7:00 pm on January 8th.
by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Eagles boys’ basketball team could not capitalize on opening the first and second quarters with 4-0 and 7-0 runs, respectively against the Platte County Pirates on December 11th. The Pirates leaned on accurate shooting and attacking the basket in transition to secure the outcome by a score of 60-47.
A rotation between full court press and the 2-3 zone defense is what the Eagles would rely on to try and stymy the Pirate attack led by Jarett Mueller. The junior guard would lead the Pirates with 22 points scored. The physical game on the court saw both teams make several trips to free throw line. The White (Grain Valley) and Blue (Platte County) Division Suburban Conference rivalry continues to grow between the two schools.
Grain Valley’s offensive output would be led by guard Jayden Yung and forward Cole Keller. Yung’s stat line would include 17 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. Keller matched his counterparts support by producing 25 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 5 blocks. Keller has delivered a double-double in his first two outings of the season for the Eagles.
Yung was more aggressive in seeking to score points this time around compared to his first game. Keller, on the other hand, picked up where he left off previously in being Grain Valley’s leading scorer and force in the post both offensively and defensively. Both Grain Valley seniors reflected on their individual efforts and what the focus will be moving forward in their postgame comments.
“This was a tough opponent tonight and I felt that I needed to step up after playing a little timid in our first game. It’s my senior year and I got to play some varsity basketball last year. That should help me transition to being more than just a role player this season,” Yung said.
“I feel more confident going into competition this season. I want to help this young team grow and push our potential.”
Keller added, “We continue to adjust to the speed of the game and improving our decision making. This is only the second varsity basketball game for some of our team. Every practice we are improving.”
“This was a fast paced game tonight. We may take our lumps early on (this season), but that will smooth out over time.”
Eagles head basketball coach Andy Herbert was pleased with how his team pushed the ball in transition and looked for scoring opportunities inside. This allowed Grain Valley to encounter some easy shots on basket.
Defensively, Herbert acknowledged the Eagles had to communicate and switch frequently with how they guarded Platte County. A duration of strong defense by Grain Valley during Pirate offensive possessions would occasionally see a breakdown late in the sequence that led to Platte County scoring opportunities. Furthermore, Herbert was glad his team got to face a high caliber of competition against the Pirates this early in the season.
“Sometimes it is a young player defensively having to learn to stay aware for that long or being out of position that can lead to the other team scoring. That being said, I thought we did a lot of good things in the first three quarters before our youth showed itself later in the game,” Herbert said.
“Jayden (Yung) did a good job tonight. He was in foul trouble our first game and didn’t have the chance to get going in an offensive rhythm. Tonight, he was what we needed him to be. He is strong, skilled, and smart on the court. We tell him all the time, ‘two feet and two hands,’ and when he plays with balance on the basketball court, he is really good. I was happy to see him attack and find success.”
“We will move on and learn from tonight. This game was a good experience for us.”
Herbert finished, “Cole (Keller) is a stud. He is going to be guarded physically and he kept his composure and focus on what matters. He showed by example tonight how to conduct yourself on the floor.”
“We look forward to working through the rocky parts that occur in a season (like this game) to get back to the happiness that comes from winning. This group is willing to learn and our team fought tonight against good competition. That’s part of the process of understanding how to win.”
Grain Valley will host the Truman Patriots at 7:00 pm on December 18th.
Sports coverage is provided by Captain's Sports Lounge, opening January in Grain Valley!
by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles Basketball team used defensive pressure and the point scoring trio of Grace Slaughter, Gabbi Keim, and Ella Clyman to defeat the Kearney Bulldogs by a score of 47-31 on December 14th.
Thievery was on display by the Lady Eagles as full court pressure and trapping the basketball led to 17 steals for the contest. Grain Valley guard Malia Gutierrez compiled 2 of her 4 steals for the game within the first 4 minutes of the 1st quarter. The Lady Eagles would secure a 13-9 lead by the end of the first quarter that they would not relinquish.
Grain Valley head basketball coach Randy Draper acknowledged that ratcheting up the defensive pressure was by design in an effort to get some easy baskets. It also made shooting looks for Kearney more difficult in forcing the Bulldogs to pick up their pace of offense.
“Our opponent shoots the ball well. The defensive pressure we applied prevented them from not being open exceptionally long. We were also able to score some baskets that we didn’t have to work too hard to get,” Draper said.
Kearney was able to keep the game within 4 points at halftime due to the accuracy of their three point shooting. Senior guard Kenzi Hoffman was the Bulldogs leading scorer with 9 points.
Slaughter for the Eagles led all scorers with 21 points. The sophomore point guard was effective in finding angles in driving to the basket to score for the Lady Eagles. Slaughter’s determination in getting to the rim also landed her on the charity stripe four times, of which she sank 6 of 8 free throw opportunities.
The stat sheet was rounded out by Slaughter with 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 steals. Slaughter confirmed that her legs are starting to get back underneath her and that she is becoming more comfortable on the floor offensively.
“We knew tonight that our defense was what we needed to pick up after the Belton game. It was a team effort to get the turnovers we created tonight,” Slaughter said.
“Yes, my legs were more there tonight. We wanted to move the ball better against a 2-3 zone after the Belton game. Our team was able to get that accomplished. Practice has proven that if we pass and I cut, then we can find post openings or an open outside shot.”
Grain Valley showed new offensive sets against Kearney and the 2-3 zone defense they deployed. A dribble weave around the top of the arc was among the new looks installed by Draper that got the ball more in the hands of Keim and Clyman in the post.
Keim continues to display footwork that enables her to attack with a left shoulder turn down low in the paint. The persistence by the senior forward led to 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 assist.
Clyman added 8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals as well. An improved confidence in taking the open jump shot by Clyman was on exhibit by the sophomore forward. The benefit being for Grain Valley that their opponent had to stretch the interior wings of the 2-3 zone, opening further post positioning for the Lady Eagles.
“Our ball rotation with the new offensive sets we put in helped tonight. I have enjoyed seeing our progress from game to game as a team. We are unselfish with the basketball and that helps me in the post,” Keim said.
Draper was pleased with progress shown by his team during their win. A head coach is rarely satisfied, even after a win, knowing what they want to address moving forward to help the team improve.
“We are getting it fixed, but our movement hasn’t been good enough at times offensively. Avoiding being stagnant was one of the reasons we incorporated the dribble weave (on offense). It also helped us shoot better, as shooting the basketball is a rhythm game,” Draper said.
“We have encouraged Ella (Clyman) to shoot more. She has worked ridiculously hard to become a better shooter and we spoke to her tonight before the game about not being shy in taking advantage of her open looks.”
Draper concluded, “Boy, if we can get that from Clyman and Gabbi (Keim) continues, along with Grace (Slaughter), we are going to be able to hit you several different ways from outside in and vice versa.”
“Fouls typically happen at the basket and the offensive rebounding provided by Clyman and Keim helps us. Our opponent has to reach to recover and it gets us the free throw line.”
Grain Valley (1-2) will next host the Truman Patriots (1-3) at 7:00 pm on December 17th.
Sports coverage provided by Captain's Sports Lounge, opening in January in Grain Valley!
by John Unrein
A jubilant Grain Valley locker room had reason to celebrate following their 59-36 victory over the Pleasant Hill Roosters on December 8th. The Eagles boys’ basketball team established the tone for the game early on by jumping into a full court press against the Roosters after the first made basket of the game, and not relenting from that point on.
Offensive fireworks were provided by senior forward Cole Keller and sophomore guard Owen Herbert. The duo fueled the Eagles to the start the game on a 15-0 run. Keller filled the Grain Valley stat sheet by scoring 20 points, pulling down 13 rebounds, providing 4 assists, and 5 blocks. Equally as impressive was Herbert, who sank five three pointers in route to a 15 point outing in his first varsity basketball game.
“I knew we would not be an experienced varsity team heading into the game tonight and I was interested in seeing what we got. Our ball distribution was good tonight, multiple people got to shoot, and most of time they went in. It was great to help contribute to a win,” Keller said.
“This group is one hundred percent tight, without selfish personalities. That’s huge on a basketball team when you are talking success. We trust each other on offense and play hard on defense.”
Herbert added, “I have been practicing my shot a lot. Reps have helped me get my timing and release point down. This was fun tonight.”
Keller combined moving through the lane seamlessly to gain offensive positioning along with put backs from offensive rebounds to pile up his scoring total. Herbert would settle at a 45 degree angle on the wing beyond the arc once moving through his motion responsibilities on offense. Herbert’s confidence in his shooting touch was on display as the game progressed. This was important for the Eagles, as it gave them a counter to when Pleasant Hill would collapse their defense in the post against Keller.
Sophomore forward Alex Snyder also made some noise in his first varsity start for the Eagles. Noticeable stress on the face of Snyder melted away as the game progressed, and adrenaline took over. Snyder would go on to score 6 points, grab 5 rebounds, pass for 2 assists, add 1 steal, and 1 block.
“I was nervous to start the game. Once you start playing though, it all goes away. Being surrounded by teammates I can trust makes all the difference. Our ability to push the ball tonight in transition and guarding them tight was why we came out on top,” Snyder said.
Snyder having a pulse on the Eagles win reflects work that has been done in practice by the Eagles during the summer and since the start of the winter season. Grain Valley’s ability to run the floor in transition lends itself to the timed competitive drills that head coach Andy Herbert often uses at the beginning of practice.
The same can be said for the importance of communication when reading screens and closing out on defense. What is emphasized and pushed hard in practice is showing up as second nature on the court for a young Eagles roster.
Herbert was as happy for his young team as he was about getting the win in his postgame comments.
“We went press to open the game because I wanted to get our own jitters out. Flying around and making something happen is a good way to forget about being nervous. We did a pretty good job of that as a team tonight,” Herbert said.
“This is a special group of kids in the way they do things. They are like minded and unselfish.”
“Keller’s ability speaks for itself. What they can’t see is the leadership he provides in practice on a daily basis. He’s selfless for someone who has accomplished so much, in so many different areas.”
“Owen (Herbert), that’s what he does from beyond the arc. We tell our kids to play in their box (role on the team), and that’s his box from the outside. He’s been a part of our program his whole life and it was great to get to seem him on the floor tonight.”
Herbert concluded, “Alex (Snyder) is athletic. He can run and jump. His growth in maturity over the last year as a basketball player has provided us a second post option. He’s also relentless on the glass.”
Grain Valley (1-0) will next host the Platte County Pirates at 7:00 pm on December 11th.
by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles basketball team dropped a close game late to the Belton Pirates on December 8th by a score of 37-33. Despite a strong effort by the Lady Eagles to obtain and extend their lead in the second and third quarters of the contest, it was not enough to hold of the surge by the Pirates who put up 20 of their 33 overall points in the second half in route to their win.
Belton was led by forward Kyndal Lewis who scored 18 points. The athleticism on display by Lewis allowed her to be a dual threat in driving the lane and scoring underneath the basket. Play was stopped during the second half to honor Lewis in surpassing 1,000 career points at Belton.
Grain Valley worked hard to turn the tide of momentum attained by Belton, with the Pirates going on a 12-2 run to start the game. Eagles sophomore point guard Grace Slaughter started her first game of the season and heated up from beyond the arc by scoring 9 points in the final four minutes of the 1st quarter.
The Lady Eagles would continue to claw their way back due to adjustments made by Grain Valley head basketball coach Randy Draper. Grain Valley would rotate in and out of a 1-3-1 zone at the start of the second quarter. The defensive switch by Draper made Belton space the floor more offensively and permitted the Lady Eagles to play better help defense as Belton attacked the rim. Furthermore, Grain Valley also refused to give Belton easy looks at the basket and would commit fouls in making the Pirates earn points at the free throw line.
Offensively, Draper also encouraged movement without the basketball through the lane in looking for open post players. This also opened windows for Slaughter to drive the baseline or shoot from behind the three point stripe based on if the Pirate defense collapsed to support down low.
Slaughter would go on to score 19 points to team with her 4 rebounds and 1 steal. The paint would be patrolled by the Eagles with senior Gabbi Keim and sophomore Ella Clyman. Keim would produce 8 points in the post to go along with her 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Clyman would use footwork and body positioning to pull down 9 rebounds that helped contribute to her 4 points.
Both Slaughter and Clyman indicated a desire to get back into the gym after the loss and work to help the team improve.
“Boxing out tonight was a collective team effort that helped me get a fair share of boards. The outcome wasn’t what we wanted tonight, but we never game up and tried our best until the end,” Clyman said.
“We are going to get back in the gym and work even harder. We know what we need to work on after this game. We will come back excited to play them (Belton) again.”
Slaughter added, “It felt great tonight to get back out there with my teammates. This was not the outcome we wanted, but Belton is an amazing team with a lot of talent. We will learn from this game, and that starts by what we do when get back to practice.”
“My shot was there to start the game. During the second half it got kind of cold though. That’s alright because we started finding Ella and Gabbi more on the inside and they scored some layups.”
“We will watch some film and push ourselves moving forward to get better.”
Getting better was a mantra that Draper focused on as well after the game. Draper’s disappointment was tempered by his optimistic look of what the future potentially holds for his team this season.
“We changed defensively during the game because we let them get to the basket too many times. Offensively, we need to find some ways to score more points. Part of that is us not being impatient or committing turnovers,” Draper said.
“Clyman is physical and we count on her down low for her a rebounding presence. We will continue to find ways to get the five correct pieces on the floor as it is early in the season.”
“Having Grace (Slaughter) back on the floor changes our team. In particular, the way we are guarded. She has to get her feet back under her, and she will as she is a great player.”
Draper concluded, “I am ready to go back to practice and solve what pieces need to be on the floor together. I am confident as we move forward that we will improve as a team.”
Grain Valley (0-2) will next host the Kearney Bulldogs at 7:00 pm on December 14th.
by John Unrein
It has been almost a month since the Grain Valley Eagles football team concluded their 10-2 season on November 20th in the quarterfinal state playoff round. The Eagles were suburban conference co-champions for their division as well as repeating as district champions, this year in Class 5, District 7. The accolades do not stop there though for Grain Valley and head football coach David Allie.
The Eagles were honored with having seven 1st Team All-Conference selections, five 2nd Team All-Conference selections, and 13 Honorable Mention selections. The importance of this acknowledgment is significant as it is conducted by football coaches within the Suburban Conference who face off against each other and get to know their competition well.
Allie shared what goes into the process of being an All-Conference honoree.
“Each coach nominates players from their team they believe are deserving for All-Conference recognition. All the conference coaches meet and talk about their players, usually by position group, and then vote for the position,” Allie said.
“Coaches cannot vote for their own players, and the results are compiled and based on the number of positions available, the vote tallies delineate the first and second teams. If a player receives at least one vote, but not enough to be on the first two teams, they receive Honorable mention honors.”
Allie continued, “Special awards, such as ‘Athlete, Players of the Year, and Coach of the Year’ are voted on at the end of the meeting, in much the same manner; coaches nominate, the group discusses and then votes.”
The following Grain Valley football team members were recognized with Suburban All-Conference selection.
Offensive Player of the Year
Quarterback Cole Keller, Senior
Defensive Player of the Year
Linebacker Hunter Newsom, Senior
1st Team All-Conference
Quarterback Cole Keller, Senior
Running Back Jaxon Wyatt, Junior
Wide Receiver Parker Bosserman, Senior
Offensive Lineman Jack Bailey, Senior
Offensive Lineman Landen Hinton, Senior
Defensive Lineman Donovan McBride, Senior
Linebacker Hunter Newsom, Senior
2nd Team All-Conference
Running Back Hunter Newsom, Senior
Defensive Lineman Josh McCoy, Senior
Linebacker Zach Kirk, Senior
Defensive Back Keegan Hart, Sophomore
Defensive Back Cameron Mickelson, Senior
Offensive Lineman Connor Heitman, Sophomore
Offensive Lineman Donovan McBride, Senior
Offensive Lineman Cooper Terry, Junior
Wide Receiver Carter Day, Senior
Wide Receiver Carter Vrlenich, Senior
Tight End Parker Stone, Senior
Returner Keegan Hart, Sophomore
Kicker Austin Schmitt, Sophomore
Defensive Lineman Quincy Jones, Senior
Defensive Lineman Sawyer Farris, Junior
Linebacker Jayden Jacobson, Senior
Defensive Back Brayden Terry, Senior
Punter Parker Bosserman, Senior
Both Cole Keller and Hunter Newsom were also nominated for the Simone Award and Buck Buchanan Award, respectively.
The Simone Award is entering its 33rd season and is given to the best all-around football player in the Kansas City area. The award originated in 1931 by Dr. Nigro and continued until his death in 1976. The award was reinstated by Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Simone as a tribute to their 12 year old son Tommy. The award is selected by a vote of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association (GKCFCA), head coaches in the metro area, and other selected media members.
The 24th Annual Buck Buchanan Memorial Award recognizes the top big class (MO 5-6, KS 5A-6A) in the Kansas City area. Junious “Buck” Buchanan was a defensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs dating back to the American Football League. Buchanan was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.
Keller, Newsom, and Jack Bailey shared their thoughts on what the distinguishment means to them.
“When I heard the news (about the Simone nomination) I was honestly shocked. It’s just cool to see my name on the same list as so many other great football players,” Keller said.
Newsom added, “I had just finished eating dinner and was headed back to my room to do some homework and chill out on my phone. I got a text from Coach Allie congratulating me on being announced as one of the semifinalists for the Buck Buchanan Award. I was really excited to share the news with my family.”
“It was a huge honor to be recognized and to represent Grain Valley.”
Bailey finished, “The All-Conference selection means so much. I’ve dreamed about playing football for Grain Valley since I was in elementary school. It was my goal to become someone that a little kid could look up to.”
Allie is proud of the recognition for his program and what this group of seniors means to him.
“This one of the most successful football classes to grace the halls of Grain Valley High School. We knew from when they were freshman that this class would be special. During their careers they played in three District Championship games, winning two, and making the quarterfinals of Class 4 and Class 5 the past two years, respectively,” Allie said.
“As sophomores, they led the change from the MRVC (Missouri River Valley Conference), and this year led us into the larger division in the conference, in addition to a larger state classification. Their overall record in high school was 33-14.”
“There would have been no better group of experienced and mature young men to lead the Grain Valley Eagles during this unique season that was full of angst and uncertainty. When there were doubts if we would finish (or even start) the season, when nobody thought they could compete in Class 5, when obstacle after obstacle challenged their mental toughness, the class of 2021 took it in stride and never doubted themselves or their potential.”
Allie concluded, “Their success on the field is a testimony to their dedication to the program and to their teammates. They truly lived up the mantra of #GVOWNIT.”
by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles basketball team was unable to maintain the 8-7 first quarter lead they secured on December 1st against the visiting St. Pius X Warriors. St. Pius would see their lead grow as the game progressed, culminating in 59-41 victory.
The Eagles would lean on defense, boxing out for rebound positioning, and unselfish ball movement to stay in the game. The Warriors countered with efficient shooting, hustle during transition, and missed shots by Grain Valley to tilt the outcome in their favor.
Strong contributors for the Eagles included seniors Jordyn Weems and Gabbi Keim. Weems would compile 6 points to go along with her 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal in picking up where she left off last season for Grain Valley in being active on both ends of the court. Her signature move continues to be cutting across the lane to the right and finishing with an underhand scoop layup.
Keim is a newcomer to the Eagles program and made quite the impression in her first game. The 5’ 8” forward for Grain Valley scored 17 points to go along with 3 rebounds and 1 block during the contest.
Both Weems and Keim were disappointed in the outcome, but glad to have the first game of the season under their belt and looking forward to getting better as the season progresses.
“We knew heading in tonight that this was going to be a tough game that would require our all in, putting forth our best effort. We were not at full strength tonight with all our team here. I am looking forward to us getting better,” Weems said.
Keim added, “My success tonight came from the unselfishness of my team. Coach Draper continues to praise us in practice in how we are getting better.”
“I have worked a lot in the offseason on my footwork and positioning. That paid off tonight. We can improve our communication on the court and that will help. We miss Grace (Slaughter) as she is a big part of taking the lead in being vocal.”
The point guard duties for the Eagles were primarily managed by senior Malia Gutierrez due to sophomore Grace Slaughter being unavailable. Gutierrez would supply a sturdy effort in scoring 2 points to team with 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.
Lady Eagles Head Basketball Coach Randy Draper was pleased that his team got to participate in competition, something that is up in the air amidst the current pandemic. The ability to see positives on the court along with opportunities for improvement is what Draper took away from his team’s first game.
“The girls played hard tonight until the end of the game. We talked as a coaching staff afterwards and we are pleased with the effort that was given by the team,” Draper said.
“The second half we got better offensively. We have changed a few things and needed a summer (to work on things) but didn’t get one. The score didn’t go our way tonight. However, I am confident we will grow and get better.”
Draper continued, “Our ball movement tonight was there, and we saw some good passing. We also did our job tonight boxing out and they were able to get some offensive rebounds over the top of us. St. Pius shot the ball better tonight than we did and my hats off to them.”
“Gabbi (Keim) has been a great addition to our team. She has a lot of patience in the post and that made her a force in the paint. Weems is a good athlete and figured out ways to help us tonight. She’s a senior that’s played in big games and it shows.”
The work identified by Draper permitted the Eagles to cut the Warriors lead down to 8 points with 3:05 left to go in the third quarter, following a three pointer by Grain Valley freshman McKenah Sears before St. Pius would pull away.
The Lady Eagles are next scheduled to travel to Belton to take on the Pirates at 7:00 pm on December 7th.