by Michael Smith
A week after attending camp at Pittsburg State University, head football coach David Allie got a closer look at his team during the first week of organized team activities last Tuesday.
The veteran coach will have a more experienced team to work with as he lost 17 seniors to graduation, which included eight players who received regular playing time during the 2021 campaign.
The year prior, the Eagles lost 22 seniors and multiple starters.
“We have a lot of guys who know the playbook,” Allie said. “We have a lot of our guys back on offense and five starters returning on defense. Last year was a learning process with so many new players playing varsity for the first time. This year we have players that know what to do out there and help their teammates.”
To help matters even more, Allie will have plenty of players to choose from to fill out his starting lineup on offense and defense. He said there are about 125 students participating in summer OTAs and workouts for football.
“We are running out of helmets,” Allie said. “There are a lot of kids and there is a shortage of helmets. That’s tough to deal with but it’s great to see so many kids out here working this summer.”
And those numbers include a sizable freshman class and a wide receiver transfer from Blue Springs Noah Olah.
“Our numbers are great,” Grain Valley junior offensive lineman Stylz Blackmon said, “especially our freshman class. We are getting a lot of help from the younger guys and we have a lot more versatility.
“This year we are going to learn leadership and how to step up. We are going to have a blue collar mentality and work very hard.”
During Tuesday’s OTA, the Eagles worked on drills, including those involving footwork and also ran a few plays in non-contact drills.
“I noticed what we have been working on besides our basic steps is we are working on a lot more pass plays,” Blackmon said. “We are utilizing a lot more passing plays with our quarterback Caleb Larson getting better and better each day and each practice.
“On the offensive line, we have worked on our down steps and learned to get faster off the ball and make it harder for teams to stop our run and pass game.”
Middle linebacker Brody Baker and the rest of his defense also got some work in, as well, and he said the team was energized to get back on the football field.
“We are definitely excited to get things rolling again,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of energy out here. We just wanted to keep the energy up even when it’s hot.”
One of the ways the Eagles do that is with their non-football competitions on Thursdays. Last week, in which the players split into seven teams. Last Thursday’s competition was a tug of war tournament, in which senior Keagan Hart’s team won.
“We have six or seven leaders who drafted teams,” Baker said. “The competitions keep us looking forward to the end of the week. Last year, we played basketball and played (medicine) ball dodgeball. It’s pretty fun.”
Grain Valley head football coach David Allie talks to his team after their first organized team activity. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior quarterback Caleb Larson, yellow jersey, awaits the snap during a non-contact drill. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Quarterback Caleb Larson gets ready to hand the ball off to sophomore running back DJ Harris.
Photo credit: Michael Smith