by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley football team was missing a key piece of its offense.
Going into Friday’s home game against Platte County, sophomore DJ Harris, who had the most varsity experience among its three running backs, was out with a lower body injury.
Even without the talented ball carrier, the Eagles were able to put together their most completed offensive performance of the season as they rushed for 356 yards as a team during a 24-14 victory against Suburban White Conference rival Platte County.
Three Grain Valley players rushed for more than 100 yards, led by quarterback Caleb Larson, who had 137 yards on 21 carries. Senior running back Christian Lanear added 117 yards on 10 totes and junior Ty Williams had 108 yards on 11 carries and two scores.
“We always talk about the three-headed monster we have back there,” Allie said. “When one goes down, the others pick up the slack. Offensively, this was our most productive game.”
Williams' two touchdowns helped the Eagles (2-2) keep the lead throughout. He found a huge hole in the middle and ran 18 yards for a score to make it 7-0 with 2:48 left in the first period.
After Platte County scored on a 60-yard scoring pass from ZImmerman to Brennan Rich midway through the second period, the Eagles and Williams responded. Williams scored on a 43-yard run to the right as he ran right through a Pirates defender and scampered 30-plus more yards into the end zone to make it 21-7.
“When your adrenaline is going, you feel like you can run through a brick wall,” Williams said. “I didn’t realize I threw him until I saw the play on the TV. I watched it and thought, ‘Wow! OK!’
“Our O line is the best in the state of Missouri. They are the greatest group of guys. I want to hang out with them all the time on the field and outside of school. None of these touchdowns and yards aren’t possible without them.”
Added Grain Valley head coach David Allie: “We preach yards after contact. We try to break tackles and get north and south and get extra yards. He did that well tonight. He runs the ball hard. He’s a strong kid, if you don’t wrap him up, he’ll run through you.”
Earlier in the season, Williams was primarily used as a third-down back, but has received more opportunities since Harris went down with an injury last week.
“All the glory to God. None of this is possible without him,” Williams said. “I was just being a team player. I was doing what I needed to do. DJ got hurt and I needed to step up, and I said ‘Alright. Let’s go.’”
The Grain Valley defense also stepped up with two turnovers and three stops of the Platte County offense in the red zone.
Grain Valley senior safety Keagan Hart came up with two interceptions of Platte County quarterback Dylan Zimmerman, with the last one coming with under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Platte County trailed 24-14 and had the ball on the Eagles 18. The Grain Valley senior safety was lined up against slot receiver Dawsen Mizell, who had several big third down catches and a fourth-down catch that eventually led to a touchdown earlier in the game.
Hart said he knew Zimmerman would look to find Mizell and Hart stepped in front of him to intercept the ball at the 8-yard line and return it to the 20. The play sealed the game as the Eagles ran out the rest of the clock.
“It was kind of easy to read it because you knew who the ball was going to,” Hart said of his second interception. “We just had to allow our defensive line to get to the quarterback and force the throw. The backers got hands on everybody and that allowed me time to get to him.
“It was easier to stop them in the red zone because we knew they were a pass-heavy team. We just had to play man and get aggressive with them, which made them have to throw a little bit quicker.”
Added Grain Valley head coach David Allie: “What a great play out in the flat! That was huge! The defense really did their job.”
His second big interception came at the 10:19 mark in the second period. The Pirates once again had the ball in the red zone, but the Eagles front four got pressure on Zimmerman, causing him to rush his throw. He threw the ball right to Hart who returned the ball 85 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0.
The third red zone when Platte County had the ball at the Grain Valley 18 and on fourth-and-4 the Eagles defense forced a low throw by Zimmerman, which resulted in an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs.
Grain Valley led 21-14 at halftime as Platte County scored on a 60-yard pass from Zimmerman to senior Wide receiver Brennan Rich and a 7-yard run from senior running back Nate Walls.
Those would be the only two scores the Pirates had. Grain Valley put up the only points of the second half when senior place kicker Austin Schmitt broke his own school record by making a 48-yard field goal, the longest in school history.
“We played well in all three phases of the game,” Allie said. “We outplayed them.”
Junior Ty Williams had 108 yards on 11 carries and two scores. Photo credit: Clara Jaques
Caleb Larson breaks through on a QB keeper against Platte County. Photo credit: John Overstreet
Keagan Hart celebrates an Eagle touchdown in their victory over Platte County. Photo credit: John Overstreet
Jake Allen applies some defensive pressure. Photo credit: John Overstreet
Photo credit: Clara Jaques