by John Unrein
Both Grain Valley Eagles Head Football Coach David Allie and his quarterback Cole Keller had their own positive perspective on being undefeated a month into the season.
“The best thing about being 4-0 is that we are still playing (amid the COVID-19 pandemic),” Allie said.
Keller reflected briefly prior to adding, “The best thing about being 4-0, is it allows us the opportunity to be 5-0.”
Both Allie’s coaching as well as Keller’s right arm and legs were instrumental in Grain Valley’s 38-0 win against the Truman Patriots on September 18th. Truman was determined to slow down the game and limit Grain Valley’s possessions by being methodical with their offense and running time off the play clock prior to each offensive snap.
Truman Head Coach Charlie Pugh found temporary success in his strategy through the end of the first quarter, with zeroes for both teams on the scoreboard. Pugh leaned on junior running back Patrick Martin throughout the game. Martin would compile 109 yards on 20 carries.
Allie would respond by pressing the tempo of the game for the Eagles offensively. Examples of this can be found in Grain Valley’s 28 point explosion during the second quarter.
The Eagles would use consecutive running plays off tackle to junior running back Jaxon Wyatt, along with touchdown play action and fade passes respectively from Keller to senior tight end Ryan Summerlin and senior wide receiver Carter Vrienich for three quick scores.
Grain Valley rarely huddled and stayed near the line of scrimmage. The Eagles would snap the football as soon as it was marked ready by the official and the play was received from the sideline.
Allie did not relent as he called three consecutive timeouts on Truman’s final possession of the first half with less than two minutes left on the clock. The resulting stop by Grain Valley’s defense and punt by Truman would pay dividends for the Eagles and Allie’s clock management.
The Eagles would secure a four touchdown lead with Keller’s 21 yard touchdown run on a scramble out of the pocket with :56 seconds left in the second quarter. The result for the Eagles was wearing down their opponent heading into halftime.
Keller was able to shake off an interception on the Eagle’s first possession of the game. The Eagles senior signal caller would bounce back by going 6 for 9 passing, good for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air. Keller would also finish as the Eagles leading rusher with 91 yards on four attempts and 2 touchdowns.
“I had a lot of time in the pocket tonight. When I was flushed from it, that was more for my comfort. That’s a credit to our guys up front. Our receivers did a good job getting open and catching the football. We were prepared and did a good job taking care of business tonight,” Keller said.
The Eagles black shirt defense, under the leadership of defensive coordinator Pete Carpino, would match the intensity of their offensive counterparts. Sophomore defensive back Keegan Hart and senior linebacker Zach Kirk were Grain Valley’s leading tacklers. Hart’s 6.5 tackles along with Kirk’s 5 tackles helped secure the Eagle’s shutout.
Senior defensive lineman Donovan McBride would turn in the biggest defensive play of game for Grain Valley. McBride’s sack of Truman quarterback John Chapin with 2:33 left in the first quarter stopped the Patriots offensive momentum.
McBride is playing both ways along the line of scrimmage this year for the Eagles. Center is McBride’s offensive home. Making line calls for blocking schemes and executing a shotgun snap consistently is a tall order for the 6’ 4”, 270 pound McBride, something he has excelled at as a first year starter on the offensive line for the Eagles.
Providing a strong pass rush and keeping control of his gap is how he spends his time as a defensive end.
McBride also provides levity for his team. Mocking an official who repeatedly insisted in a loud manner that the play was over on a kickoff, due to the football landing in the end zone is usually not advisable for a player.
However, McBride’s mimic, done with a smile on his face, was such a spot on impersonation that it drew a chuckle from the line judge. McBride’s follow up of “Thanks for keeping us safe” also went over well with the official and eased tension along the Eagles sideline.
“We knew that Truman was going to pass in third and long situations. Coach (Carpino) put me in a good position. I was in a ‘five technique’ over the offensive tackle, and I have to win those one on one battles. A shout out to Coach (Carpino) on that,” McBride said.
“I had to work on my stamina in the offseason knowing there was a chance I would be playing both ways. Coaches on both sides of the football have done a good job of getting after me and making me work. We knew nothing was going to come easy.”
McBride closed with his sense of humor on display by saying, “Having a six-five quarterback makes it easier to execute the shotgun snap.”
Allie smiled and took a deep breath leaving the field after the Eagles victory. Grain Valley avoided a letdown against a hungry Truman football team. The execution of a strong game plan permitted the Eagles to come out on top in a convincing manner.
“Truman came out tonight strong and wanted to eat as much clock as they could to keep the ball out of our hands. Hats off to Coach Pugh and the job he’s doing at Truman. (Donovan) McBride’s sack was a momentum changer and boosted us into the second quarter,” Allie said.
“Cole (Keller) was good at reading the variety of fronts and techniques they were throwing against us. He got us in the right play tonight at the line (of scrimmage). We were going to step on the gas to try and maximize our possessions by hurrying up once we saw they were trying to slow down the game.”
“We had faith in our defense to get stops. We work on our two minute offense all the time in practice. We were ready for this situation tonight and things worked.”
Grain Valley will host the Kearney Bulldogs on Friday, September 25th at Moody Murray Stadium. Kearney’s 2-2 record on the season includes a notable 27-21 overtime victory against the Fort Osage Indians in week one.
Top: Eagles Defensive Lineman Donovan McBride sacks Truman Quarterback John Chapin.
Below: Quarterback Cole Keller dashes to the end zone.
Photo credit: John Overstreet