by Michael Smith
In last week’s Class 5 District 7 championship game against Raytown, the Grain Valley football team was missing a key part of its offense.
Senior wide receiver Logan Pratt, who has been a top target for quarterback Caleb Larson, played a few snaps before having to sit out because of his ankle injury.
Pratt was the Eagles main deep threat as he is one of the if not the fastest players on the team, so that took away an element of the offense. Someone had to step up.
Enter junior Keagan Hart.
The junior is one of the few players for Grain Valley who plays on both offense and defense, and he stepped up when his team needed him most against the Blue Jays. Operating out of the slot receiver and tight end positions, he caught four passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Eagles to a 37-36 victory.
That performance aided the Eagles in advancing to the Class 5 quarterfinals for the second consecutive year and they will play Fort Osage at 7:00pm Friday at Moody Murry Memorial Field.
With Pratt being potentially sidelined another game, there’s a good possibility Hart will play a big role on offense once again.
“Keagan is a great leader and he’s very coachable,” Grain Valley head coach David Allie said. “He does what we ask him to do, and he knows what the opponent is going to do. He just has great instincts.”
And he was able to do that against Raytown despite playing through a broken finger on his left hand that has gotten better, he said. It caused him to miss the final regular season game against Belton and the first playoff game against Sedalia Smith-Cotton.
“There is a little bit of stiffness in there, but other than that, it’s fine,” Hart said. “Every once in a while, it’s a little sore after taking a hit. But I have learned to play through the taped fingers and with the braces on.”
Hart has been used more on the defensive side of the ball than offense, but he’s been able to contribute in a big way on both sides. As a wide receiver and tight end, Hart 11 catches for 284 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s exceeded expectations on offense,” Allie said. “We knew he was a great athlete, but he can catch the ball, run routes and do a lot of things. When you get the ball in his hands, he can do something with it.”
The junior has had a good connection with junior quarterback Caleb Larson. The duo have been close friends for a long time and have played multiple sports together, which has helped their chemistry on the gridiron, Hart said. 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 the most consistent unit on the team.
“We have always been super close friends,” Hart said. “From playing baseball and playing football all year, our connection has always been there and we can always rely on each other.”
On defense, Hart has been a valuable piece to the Eagles’ secondary. So far this season, he has 32 tackles, three for a loss and three interceptions.
While Hart has been exceptional in coverage in the secondary, he’s expanded his game since last season to be a run stopper, as well.
“Last year, the game was so fast for me, so I feel like the game has slowed down for me this year,” Hart said. “Last year, I stayed deep and played the ball. This year, I expanded my game to be more of a run stopper, too.”
And Hart’s versatility could continue to boost an Eagles team that is just one win away from making the state final four.
“Keagan is a ball hawk and he comes down and hits people, too,” Grain Valley senior linebacker Gage Forkner said. “He’s good at reading the ball and playing the ball as a safety. He’s also just a really smart player. He watches a lot of film.”
Junior Keagan Hart celebrated a last second score in last week's District Championship game vs. Raytown.
Photo credit: John Overstreet