by Michael Smith
For the second consecutive year, the Grain Valley football team will play in the Class 5 state quarterfinals.
After last Friday’s thrilling 37-36 overtime win against Suburban White Conference rival Raytown, the Eagles now find themselves facing off against another familiar opponent in conference foe Fort Osage.
The teams will play against each other at 7:00pm Friday at Moody Murry Memorial Field. The last time the two teams faced off was Week 6 of the regular season when Fort Osage edged Grain Valley 9-8.
Grain Valley head coach David Allie said he hopes his team can repeat the same success on defense that it had against the Indians last time. The Eagles held the Indians to just 148 yards of total offense in that one.
Grain Valley senior middle linebacker Gage Forkner noted that it will be important to keep track of Fort Osage’s mobile quarterback Greg Menne, who has a strong arm and has the ability to take off with the ball on scrambles.
The Eagles will have to deal with senior tackle Stevie Gabb, who was named co-offensive player of the year in the Suburban White Conference.
“We have to stay disciplined, read our reads and force turnovers,” Forkner said. “We have to get the ball in our offense’s hands.”
“(Gabb) on their O line is a monster. He gets after it. He got co-offensive player of the year (in the White Conference) which is crazy for an offensive lineman to get that.”
His team will also have to look out for wide receiver Lorenzo Fenner, who is Menne’s No. 1 target. He’s a receiver with a lot of speed and elusiveness, as evidenced on a kick return he had against Grain Valley in their last matchup when he returned a kick to the Eagles 3-yard line.
Running back Javen Hall will be another player Grain Valley will have to account for. He’s a player who runs hard between the tackles and showed some burst against the Eagles.
“As soon as you focus on their running back, their quarterback will pull it because he can run with it,” Grain Valley head coach David Allie said. “We also have to keep an eye out on Fenner on jets and end arounds, we have to contain him. We know about how fast and athletic he is from the first time we played them.”
“We have to contain those guys and force them into situations where they have to throw the ball down field.”
The Eagles have the defense to repeat the success they had in Week 6. Grain Valley has surrendered just 19.09 points per game and has been consistent throughout the season.
“Our defense played lights out (against Raytown),” Allie said. “We gave them seven free points on the scoop and score at the end of the first half. If we take care of business in that situation, we’re probably not going to overtime. Raytown went for it on fourth-and-1 inside our red zone and our defense stopped them. Our defense continues to play at a high level.”
On offense, Grain Valley struggled against Fort Osage, gaining just 138 yards from scrimmage. Allie noted that defensive lineman Brock Branstietter gave his offensive line fits last game and was a big part of limiting the Eagles’ ground game.
Linebacker David Jacquez is someone Grain Valley will have to keep an eye out on as well. He’s an all-state linebacker who has made big plays for the Indians all season.
“We might have to throw two or three guys on him because he’s such a force or run away from him,” Eagles junior safety Keagan Hart said of Branstietter. “We also have to run away from No. 33 (Jacquez) because he’s a stud player. He was all-state last year. If we execute our keys, we will be fine on offense.”
Added Allie: “Branstietter really disrupted our run game. He tore us up. Our pulling guard couldn’t pull because he got so much penetration.”
While Grain Valley (8-3) is a run first team, the X-factor could be the passing game led by quarterback Caleb Larson, who has been solid throwing and running with the ball all season. He led his team to a game-tying touchdown with no time left in the game against Raytown when he completed 5 of 7 passes for 55 yards, capped by a 11-yard touchdown pass to Hart.
“We feel like we have some ways to throw the ball against these guys,” Allie said. “They are going to be aggressive up front. They stunt, they blitz. We’re going to have to do a good job in pass pro to throw the ball down the field.
“We’re going to have to play solid, fundamental football on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a great game.”
The Eagles held Fort Osage to just 148 yards in their last game with the Indians. The effort was led by senior linebacker Gage Forkner (#7 right foreground), who had 10 tackles and junior defensive end Jack Allen (#20) who had a team high 1.5 sacks.
Photo credit: John Overstreet