by John Unrein
Momentum is mighty in the game of football. That cliché proved true again on November 18th as the Grain Valley Eagles could not keep momentum on their side in their Class 5 quarterfinal playoff matchup against the Webb City Cardinals. With the game tied at fourteen apiece, a fumble on the one-yard line by the Eagles was recovered by the Cardinals in the end zone with 4:40 remaining in the second quarter.
Webb City would convert that turnover into a go ahead score on a 4th and 19 fade pass from sophomore quarterback Gabe Johnson to junior wide receiver Joseph DeGraffenreid with two minutes remaining in the half.
The legs of Johnson would produce touchdown runs of 90 and 78 yards during the first and third quarters respectively for the Cardinals vaunted rushing attack. Webb City would go on to amass 452 yards rushing on 46 attempts. Grain Valley fought hard to match that offensive production.
Seniors Sal Caldarella and Ty Williams led the charge for the Eagles. Caldarella threw for 271 yards through the air and four touchdowns (with a quarterback rating of 140.8). Williams would rush for 174 yards on 22 attempts and find paydirt in the end zone at the 9:05 mark of the first quarter.
With blood on their uniforms and tears in their eyes both Caldarella and Williams reflected on their playoff run and what this season meant to each of them after the game.
“God is good, and I am blessed to be able to play this sport. I love this senior class. They have been amazing to play football with this season,” Williams said.
“I have been fortunate enough to play football for the Eagles for four years and I would not trade it for anything. The comradery of lifting weights in the summer, pushing a sled, and running hills in 105-degree heat with people you consider your brothers on either side of you is something I will never forget.”
Caldarella could be heard throughout the game urging his teammates not to stop playing until the clock hit zero. “What we did tonight shows the heart of this team. It was an honor to play with these guys. There is truly no better feeling than being an Eagle. The smiles and laughs that would greet you when you walked into the locker room after school each day is something I will always cherish,” Caldarella said.
The Eagles 10-2 season is highlighted by its 5th consecutive district title with head coach David Allie at the helm. Allie’s wisdom and work ethic has put Grain Valley on the map as a Class 5 football power in the State of Missouri. The Eagles would produce a whopping 464 points scored during their 2023 campaign, while permitting 247 points scored. You must score points in big class Missouri football to make a run in the playoffs. The Eagles have gradually improved each year in that regard during Allie’s tenure.
“The mistake on the goal line and the onside kick (we almost recovered) hurt, but we did not stop fighting. We led at one point and the game was tied three times. Number three for them (Webb City) is slippery. Even though we were chasing our tail at times, I felt like we had a good defensive game plan and were never out of the contest. We just ran out of time with the final score 49 to 35 for them.” Allie said.
“This senior class has believed and bought in. The team we played tonight is a good ball club and so are we. There is no plan or speech you prepare for the team or the media after a loss like this one. The buy in by the kids and the expectations they have set and seeing them live up to them has been special in my time here.”
Eagles quarterback Sal Caldarella completes the play action fake to Ty Williams prior to looking down field for a completion. Photo credit: Valley News staff
Head coach David Allie addresses the Eagles football team after the game. Photo credit: Valley News staff
The Eagles defense prepares to stop the Cardinals' offensive attack. Photo credit: Valley News staff