by John Unrein
The Eagles football team ground out a tough win against the visiting Savannah Savages on Friday, August 30th. Both teams had game planned each other well in an attempt to shut down what the opposition did best. The ability of Grain Valley’s offense to churn out yards on the ground along with their defense being able to hold Savannah’s rushing game largely at bay led to the 14-12 victory.
Savannah deployed a 3-3 stack defense (three down linemen with three stacked linebackers behind them) and played games by blitzing their linebackers through a variety of gaps all game. Grain Valley responded by running trap as a safe gap run against the blitz along with blending in jet sweeps and option. The combination of runs led to two touchdowns along with 261 yards rushing.
Contributing ball carries for the Eagles included Senior Running Backs Jamore Goulden and Tanner Bailon, Junior Quarterback Cole Keller, as well as slot receivers Junior Parker Bosserman and Sophomore Logan Pratt. Goulden and Keller each found pay dirt with rushes of three and ten yards respectively.
Goulden turned in a gritty performance in his first time starting for the Eagles at running back. His individual effort of 73 yards on 21 carries drew the praise of Eagles Head Football Coach David Allie.
“Hats off to our running backs. They got the yards when we needed them tonight. Jamore was elected a captain this year based on his hard work and effort. He always has a smile on his face, puts his head down and gets what he can get, and comes back to carry the ball on the next play,” Allie said.
One of the linemen assigned the task of pulling on trap runs to kick out the defensive end was Offensive Guard Jack Bailey. The returning starter and Junior praised his opponent along with sharing his joy for run blocking.
“Savannah was physical. They flowed to the football very well. We found that if we ran trap away from motion, it would be successful for us. Getting to earhole block an unsuspecting defender is awesome,” Bailey said.
Goulden was satisfied with his efforts along with being respectful of his opponent in his post-game comments.
“They are a tough team that fights hard. I wanted to go toe to toe with them on every play. They hit you hard and let you know about it. Getting to score a touchdown in the second half and helping my team win was special,” Goulden said.
Wide Receiver Gavin Oyler also turned in one of the key offensive plays of the game with 6:17 left in the third quarter after the Eagles scored to go up 12-6. The Senior came out after halftime suffering from cramps.
Oyler kept the extra point attempt hold and rolled to his right. He was greeted by a Savannah defender only to absorb the contact and stretch the football across the goal line for a successful two-point conversion that put the Eagles ahead 14-6.
Defensive Coordinator Pete Carpino chose to deploy an even front (four down defensive lineman) against Savannah. The linebacking corps and defensive ends were disciplined in reading their keys to eliminate big gains. Option meshes by the Savages often were greeted by multiple defenders attacking the ball carrier.
The big trio, as they affectionately refer to themselves, consists of Senior Steele Blackmon, and Juniors Quincy Jones and Donovan McBride. All three defensive tackles were consistent in coming off the ball low, getting their hands on the offensive lineman in front of them first, while maintaining leverage and finding their keys.
“First off, they had a good offensive line. We were physical though and kept our eyes on our reads,” McBride said.
Jones added, “It was hard tonight, but we fought through it. Thanks to the coaching we got this week, we knew to sit down and keep ahold of the man in front of us. We spent a lot of time in the pit during practice leveraging our hips and it paid off tonight.”
Blackmon put his summation on the defensive line’s effort for the evening. “They are a good offensive line. We are a better defensive line. I was in a two technique, head up on the guard getting double teamed most of the night. It was hard with their full house formation to make sure your eyes were in the correct gap while holding down the man in front of you.”
The Eagles success in limiting Savannah’s rushing attack led the Savages to turn to the fade pass. Savannah connected on a deep vertical touchdown pass between Senior Quarterback Chase Spoonemore and Senior Running Back Noah Bodenhausen. The score would tie the game with 6:08 left in the second quarter.
Savannah would miss the subsequent extra point. The Eagles would only give up one more score on the evening.
“We were trying to prevent big plays. They hit us though on a couple of big plays on third down. We are a little beat up in the secondary and we had to rotate guys. The cohesiveness we usually have in the secondary was different tonight,” Allie said.
“Hats off to our defense though. That front did a great job stopping their run game. You have to love one of the things we can’t coach and that’s the size of our guys up front along the defensive line. On top of that they are aggressive. Those three big boys anchoring inside allows our linebackers to flow freely.”
Allie indicated that red zone efficiency on offense along with reading their keys better would be a focus for the upcoming week of practice. Defensively, he wanted the Eagles to work on not giving up things over the top in the passing game as well as prepping for the speed that they will see against the Grandview Bulldogs on Friday, September 6th, in their first Suburban Conference matchup of the season.
Junior Quarterback Cole Keller hands off the football to Senior Running Back Jamore Goulden. Photo credit: John Overstreet
Senior Running Back Jamore Goulden and Junior Offensive Lineman Jack Bailey.
Senior Steele Blackmon, and Juniors Quincy Jones and Donovan McBride.
Photo credit: Valley News staff