by John Unrein
Humidity and heat greeted the Grain Valley Eagles Football Team during their on the field activities and conditioning the week of July 6th. Frequent water breaks, social distancing, and coaches providing instruction through masks were the new norms of the Eagles progressing through their 2020 offseason.
Whether it be a surgical mask, or a facemask, there are old and new faces adorning themselves on the field for the Eagles. Senior quarterbacks Cole Keller and Parker Bosserman are sharing reps with the varsity offense. Senior linebacker Hunter Newsom and defensive lineman Quincy Jones return as well for the Eagles blackshirt defense.
Keller has shown proficiency providing accurate downfield strikes on slant routes and play action post patterns behind safeties. This is old hat for Keller and something his right arm excels at regularly. Keller continues to show no ill effects of the knee injury that ended his 2019 season prematurely.
Bosserman has picked up where he left off last season when he filled in for the injured Keller at quarterback. Judgement to keep or pitch on option plays has been sound for Bosserman. It has also allowed him to showcase his quickness in getting into the Eagles defensive backfield during scrimmages.
Jones returns along Grain Valley’s defensive line along with senior teammate Donovan McBride to provide notable size. Jones has found his voice in being a more vocal leader for the Eagles defense. He also turned in one of the better defensive plays for the Eagles on July 6th.
Stemming (realigning quickly prior to the snap to throw off the blocking assignment of the offense) late in front of the offensive guard allowed for Jones to get penetration into the Eagles offensive backfield. Jones reward was meeting a wide receiver coming across the formation on a reverse prior to knocking the football out of his grasp.
“I’m comfortable in my own skin. If I do something wrong, I admit it. If I see someone else doing something wrong, I’m going to say something about it. Once you get comfortable communicating honestly, you play better,” Jones said.
“I got off the ball today at times well. The play on the reverse was one of those times. To be honest, I feel like I could’ve played better today. Film will tell that story. It’s our first day in pads though and there’s always room for improvement.”
Newsom on the other hand, is an old face in a new place for the Eagles. Fullback was a spot that Newsom shared with teammate Seth Dankenbring last year. Both players brought their physical mentality from their linebacker position to block and catch for the offensive side of the football. Dankenbring is awaiting graduation as a member of the Class of 2020. Newsom is learning the new offensive position of tailback in the Eagles’ offense.
To be asked to play both ways is a sign of respect in football. Being trusted to learn and execute things as an offensive and defensive player is not easy. It takes lots of physical reps, mental preparation, and acceptance of coaching. Newsom is preparing for both as a returning starter on defense and learning the nuances of ball protection, block reading, and pass protection schemes as a tailback on offense.
“I was a running back in youth football. I have enjoyed getting back to my routes. Getting asked to go both ways is a challenge I am willing to meet to help this team win,” Newsom said.
“If you think, it will slow you down. Both positions I play on each side of the football are about reaction. Our coaches give us permission to make mistakes early on in this process as long as we do them full speed.”
Newsom did not hesitate when asked which side of the football he likes better and why.
“On defense you are free. There’s a mentality you must possess being a member of our blackshirt defense. Seek and destroy the football. React to what you see and don’t hesitate.”
Guiding Newsom on his growth in the offensive backfield is assistant varsity football coach Chris Pate. Grain Valley is home for Pate and his family. Pate will be wrapping up a decade as a teacher in the Grain Valley School District this school year. It will also be his seventh season as part of the football staff.
Pate brings a wealth of knowledge with him as the new varsity running back coach for the Eagles. An all-state selection as a linebacker as well as being an all-conference running back during his prep days at Wellington-Napoleon High School is something that Pate acknowledges but does not like to elaborate on out of modesty.
Pate has also served as a head football coach at Crest Ridge, Missouri, along with a stint as the defensive coordinator at William Chrisman High School in Independence, Missouri. Prior coaching experience is one of the reasons why Pate has pushed fundamentals and their proper execution by the players he coaches so far during team camp and on the field activities.
“Ball security and knowing what to do on each play has been the primary focus for us. It doesn’t matter how much talent you possess as a runner, if you don’t hold onto the football you can’t play for us,” Pate said.
“Reading the hole with how fast things happen in this offense (with pulling offensive lineman) is also something that grows out of confidence from reps and improving your reaction. Lastly, you must be willing to block.”
Pate concluded, “I am excited be here and part of a successful staff that Coach Allie has built. I am looking forward to what lies ahead for us.”