by John Unrein
The memory of a week three 29-40 loss against the visiting Smithville Warriors last season has not faded for coaches or players on the Grain Valley Eagles Football team. It has helped maintain concentration and been a motivator in an offseason filled with a global pandemic and uncertainty. The entire program will be focused on redemption when they head to Smithville on Friday, August 28th.
The season opener in football typically comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes and plays more physical. Eagles Head Football Coach David Allie is confident in his team’s level of readiness as they approach kickoff for the 2020 season.
“We had as good of summer as we could’ve had. Luckily, we didn’t have anybody shutdown because of COVID-19. We had a really good July as a program and feel we are ahead of where we were this time last year,” Allie said.
“You also have to factor in the anxiety kids are feeling because they don’t know if or when their season will be taken away. We have to finish this week of practice continuing to work hard and we are excited we get to play Friday.”
“We are limiting our errors and have a positive attitude. We have gotten more done and feel more prepared then we have ever been. I feel good about where we are at and we are ready to go.”
Allie concluded, “Last year when we played Smithville, we had a lot of unforced errors. Footballs are oblong and they bounce funny. This team is focused, and we are ready to make our own luck.”
Eagles football practice on Tuesday, August 25th offered insight into things the team has been diligently working on. A roster that boasts 97 players braved the afternoon heat and humidity. The beginning of practice witnessed Grain Valley focused special teams as they worked on punt coverage and not outrunning the punt.
Offensively, senior quarterback Cole Keller was poised reading things at the line of scrimmage and calling an audible to get his team in the correct play based on the defensive front presented. Keller continues to show no ill effects of last season’s knee injury. This was emphasized by Keller running downhill with speed and showing good decision making on option runs for the Eagles offense.
Defensively, practice highlights included the defensive line sniffing out a screen to a wing crossing the formation after the snap. Senior defensive tackle Quincy Jones was able to be disruptive in the offensive backfield on several plays by getting off the ball quickly at the snap and playing his technique with leverage. Grain Valley Defensive Coordinator Pete Carpino also emphasized trust between the defensive line and linebackers when handling their option responsibilities defensively.
Senior linebackers Shane Duckworth and Hunter Newsom offered their thoughts on keys to success heading into Friday’s game against Smithville.
“Shane has a big heart and always gives an honest effort. We love him to death. We are ready to bring it this Friday. We have been working since June for this moment,” Newsom said.
“We are going to let it all hang out on the field. Nothing is given to you, especially not knowing if we will get to play a full season’s schedule. Aligning against their fronts correctly and flying to the football will be the difference makers for us.”
Duckworth added, “This black shirt defense has a wolf pack mentality. We always rally to the football. I offer my teammates verbal encouragement, like saying ‘Let’s go’ and they always have my back if I make a mistake or when I’m at my lowest. I love football.”
Keller and fellow senior Jacob Macahan, who plays wide receiver for the Eagles are also brimming with confidence as the beginning of the 2020 football season draws closer.
“My knee feels great and I’m playing without a brace. I don’t even think about it anymore. I am comfortable doing everything I need to do physically,” Keller said.
“Running the option gives me the ability to show all my strengths. Option football also distributes the football well to my teammates and puts pressure on the defense. The athletes we have makes it fun to have option football part of this offense.”
Macahan agrees, “This is my senior year and the last chance to show what I’m about. I want to do well for my coaches and teammates. I love running deep routes, blocking when we run option, and getting the ball in space in this offense.”