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.