by John Unrein
Then there were eight. The Eagles advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 4 Missouri football playoffs with their win over the visiting Harrisonville Wildcats on Friday, November 15th by a score of 32-21. The execution put forth by Grain Valley in all three aspects (offense, defense, and special teams) of the game allowed for them to be dominant in their victory over a rival.
Head Football Coach David Allie soaked in the moment as he described why November football is so special.
"We thought we would be pretty good up front defensively, and we needed to be. Their kid coming in had 2,000 yards as a running back. Harrisonville only got outside of us a couple of times as we limited the interior running lanes.”
“Their offensive line plays with short splits in between gaps which makes it football in a phone booth, and we shut that down. Hats off to Coach Carpino and our staff for the excellent work they put in," Allie said.
"November football means everything and is magnified in the playoffs. We are one of the last eight teams in the state for our class and right now it's anyone's ball game. Platte County is our next opponent and we will be traveling to their place. We have to come out and turn what we do in practice to fruition on the field. This is a grind. These kids from day one, I have said are very coachable, and we will enjoy the ride along the way."
Proper execution of the game plan and football fundamentals first reared its head with the black shirt defense under the direction of Coach Carpino. Harrisonville's fullback on offense would lead to where the football was going on the ground. The Eagles consistently swarmed to football with multiple tacklers securing the stop.
Harrisonville struggled with the snap from center offensively. One from under center was fumbled as were two shotgun snaps over the head of Junior Quarterback River Riley, the second of which was recovered by the Eagles with 32 seconds left in the first half on the Harrisonville 45 yard line.
The Eagles capitalized on the error in fundamentals on a cold night as they drove the ball inside the Wildcats’ 10 yard line with 4 seconds left. Grain Valley set up for a field goal attempt that led to a botched snap and a positive reaction by Senior Holder Gavin Oyler, who did not panic.
Oyler secured the ball off the ground and drifted left as he rolled away from the placement and pressure. He eventually turned his shoulders and squared himself to the right, initiating a perfectly lofted football into the waiting arms of Junior Riley Brown in the end zone.
The Eagles would go ahead 14-7 heading into halftime. Oyler gave credit to his coaches and the team's practice routine for knowing how to respond in that situation.
"To be honest with you, at this point in the season it's all reaction. We practice that every day. We are presented with a lot situations so we know how to react without thinking," Oyler said.
"I love to take on any challenge that helps our team. Competing with this group is special."
Sophomore Wide Receiver Logan Pratt also executed well on special teams. Harrisonville angled kickoffs repeatedly towards the Eagles sideline trying to limit gaps in coverage lanes.
Pratt was up for the challenge and broke for several big returns against Wildcat defenders baring down on him at awkward angles. A prime example of this would be Pratt's kickoff return with 3:39 left in the first quarter that provided the Eagles great field position on the Harrisonville 48 yard line.
Pratt would also contribute six catches at wide receiver, good for 63 yards. The sophomore is starting to play past his years in Allie's offense and has become a reliable set of hands down the stretch.
The last noteworthy feat of execution continues to be the play of Junior Quarterback Parker Bosserman. The junior signal caller, filling in for injured starting quarterback Cole Keller, went 16 for 26 through the air for 173 yards and two touchdowns to go along with two interceptions.
Allie adjusted his play calling the second half with rollout passes to better suit the strengths of the 5' 10" Bosserman. The dividends paid off big, with the Eagles able to successfully move the football with chunks of yardage.
"Being a short guy like me, you got to get somewhere that you can see to deliver the football. The offensive line and our running backs did a great job providing protection as we moved the pocket. I just read things up and delivered the ball to the open receiver," Bosserman said.
"This is the first time I have ever played this late into a season. I sat my freshman year when we lost this game. We will have the fire needed against Platte County when we face them having lost to them earlier in the season. Our determination will center around the 4th quarter, having lost the game late to them last time."
Bosserman's biggest pass of the game came with 5:43 left in the fourth quarter. Bosserman rolled left to the trips side of the formation. Upon breaking contain, he stopped and threw right back across the field to Tight End Hunter Newsom. The junior looked the football into his hands after baiting Wildcat defenders perfectly as he delayed the deployment of his route into the flat.
Newsome chose to run over the Harrisonville safety at the goal line instead of going around him as his 10 yard touchdown reception put the Eagles up 29-15 late in the fourth quarter.
Motivation should not be a factor for the Eagles leading up to the game against their Suburban Conference foe, as they travel north to face Platte County, who they lost to by one point in a week four matchup.
Junior Quarterback Parker Bosserman went 16 for 26 through the air for 173 yards and two touchdowns to go along with two interceptions.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Senior Holder Gavin Oyler alludes pressure to throw touchdown pass on botched extra point attempt.
Photo credit: John Overstreet