by John Unrein
That was the motto put forth by Grain Valley Eagles Head Football Coach David Allie and his staff in the week leading up to their game against the visiting Kearney Bulldogs. Prove that the team will not lick their wounds from the previous loss. Prove the capability to beat more than the team’s critics think you can beat on the schedule. Prove that we belong in this conference by defeating a physical and respected program with a tradition of winning.
Allie’s team did indeed prove it with their win over the Bulldogs by a score of 15-7 on Friday, October 11th. Kearney came to Moody Murray stadium with a 4-2 record, eager to build off the success they had enjoyed this season within the Suburban Conference.
The Eagles defense and special team units were opportunistic and stingy. Individual efforts abounded at key moments in the game that allowed Grain Valley to keep or shift momentum in their favor with key plays.
Senior Defensive Back William Lanear was the first to answer the call with a critical interception to stop the Kearney drive at the goal line with 8:10 left in the second quarter. Lanear read the open receiver in the flat and darted from his safety position to secure the interception.
Lanear had been a vocal leader on the Eagles sideline, keeping his teammates focused and in check during the time he missed with his injured left knee earlier in the season. That’s what made his contribution so special in not being able to hide his emotions after the game.
“I was reading the quarterback on the interception and doing my job. Everything else was covered and I made the choice to floor it getting in front of the receiver. I tried to take it (the football) back and get every yard I could,” Lanear said.
Senior Linebacker Seth Dankenbring was next in showing determination with his blocked punt at the 1:38 mark of the second quarter. Dankenbring was acrobatic in timing his leap over the trio of Bulldog shield punt protectors to end up horizontal in the air prior to extending his right hand. The block allowed the Eagles to take over possession of the football at the Kearney 37-yard line.
“All season we have talked about looking for opportunities to change a game. Big plays on special teams changes the momentum of a game and can give your offense big opportunities. I saw the window for the block and went for it. I couldn’t have done it without everyone else,” Dankenbring said.
Not to be out done by Lanear and Dankenbring was Junior Linebacker Hunter Newsom. Newsom put forth an acting effort worthy of Oscar Award winning consideration when he baited Kearney’s quarterback by staying back from the flat window after identifying that’s where the ball was headed. The outcome was an interception by Newsom as he stepped in front of the intended receiver and returned the football to Grain Valley’s own 48-yard line with 6:54 left in the third quarter.
“Putting in the time before and watching film allows you to be prepared to make an interception like that. I knew when the running back came out that there would be a window to make a play and I had to time it by not showing in his sight (the quarterback) too early,” Newsom said.
The last word in responding with big plays would come from Senior Defensive Tackle Steele Blackmon. Blackmon would sack Kearney Quarterback Ian Acosta on a huge 3rd down and 7 from the Eagles 41-yard line to stall Kearney’s drive dead in its tracks with 6:44 left in the game.
Blackmon also displayed consistent leadership in walking away from extracurricular activity after the whistle on downs as well as not permitting his teammates to partake in trash talking that could lead to potential penalties.
“The message all week was prove it. Coach was non-stop in communicating that to us. I wanted to do something big in helping us to win. The opportunity came with the sack late in the game,” Blackmon said.
Allie was delighted to talk about the effort of his defense and the gem of a game plan produced by Defensive Coordinator Pete Carpino.
“We have talked all season about the importance of turnover differential. Our defense handed us the football on multiple occasions. We were able to capitalize offensively on a couple of those. The play of our defensive line and our overall defensive unit in stopping the run was awesome tonight,” Allie said.
“Offensively, we were able to throw the football in the flat and had success with short routes. Ultimately, there was determination by us to run the football through B gap. That happened with trap and ISO. We were able to get 15 points on the board.”
The Eagles offensive efforts were boosted by the legs and right arm of Junior Quarterback Cole Keller. The eleven-minute mark of the 2nd quarter witnessed Keller keep the football on a mesh read in the backfield for a seven-yard scamper to the end zone.
The ensuing two-point attempt was good on the handoff from Dankenbring to Senior Defensive Lineman Chance Pittman. Grain Valley would go up 8-7 and not surrender its lead.
Later scoring by Grain Valley would include a touchdown pass from Keller to Junior Wide Receiver Parker Bosserman. Senior Jack Knust kicked the extra point. The ten-yard strike with :43 left in the first half would put the Eagles up 15-7. That would be all the scoring Grain Valley would need.
The Eagles were able to drain the clock late in the game in part due to the rushing efforts of Senior Running Back Jamore Goulden. His 76 yards rushing on 14 carries were enough to help Grain Valley shorten the game.
The win moves the Eagles to a 4-3 record on the season. The team will next travel to Ruskin High School on Friday, October 18th at 7pm.
Senior Defensive Tackle Steele Blackmon and Junior Linebacker Hunter Newsom combine on the stop against the Kearney ball carrier.
Photo credit: John Overstreet
Left to right: Junior Linebacker Hunter Newsom, Senior Linebacker Seth Dankenbring, Senior Defensive Back William Lanear, and Senior Defensive Tackle Steele Blackmon.
Photo credit: Valley News staff