by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley offense had its struggles against a strong Fort Osage defense in last week’s 9-8 loss.
While the offense sputtered, the defense was strong and kept the team in the game. In Friday’s contest, Grain Valley excelled on both sides of the ball while Larson led the offense in a 45-7 rout of the Bears at Independence All-School Stadium.
With the Bears committing most of its defenders in the box to stop the Eagles run game, Caleb Larson took advantage in the passing game. He finished by completing 9 of 15 passes for 114 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Larson used run-pass options to fool the Bears defense. The first play of that kind went for a 39-yard touchdown pass to Brek Sloan on a slant route in the first quarter to make it 7-0.
“That was awesome,” Larson said. “Coming in, under the circumstances he was in, he made a big play and that’s really good for him.”
He threw an interception later in the period but he didn’t let that affect him.
“You just have to shake it off, it’s too early in the game to get down on yourself and think you’re not going to do anything,” Larson said of his interception. “I had to get that one back. The team did really well and I had great blocking and the receivers caught the ball. That’s all that matters.”
Grain Valley head coach David Allie said he was impressed with pre-snap adjustments Larson made.
“He had a couple of hot routes, hit some hitches and made some good checks,” Allie said of Larson. “I thought he did a great job managing the game.”
Larson also ran the ball 10 times for 81 yards and a rushing touchdown. Freshman running back DJ Harris added 62 yards on 10 carries and a score. Fifty-nine of those yards came on a drive late in the first period when he scored on a 2-yard run to give his team a 14-0 lead.
Grain Valley (4-3) scored 21 points in the second quarter, with a fumble recovery by Brody Baker and an interception from junior linebacker Cole Elliott led to a 20-yard TD run from Larson and a 11-yard scoring strike from Larson to a wide-open Logan Pratt on a play action pass. Sandwiched between those scored was a 16-yard TD pass from Larson to sophomore receiver Anthony Greco, whom the junior signal caller is building a strong rapport with, on a similar play action pass from the pistol formation.
“Our relationship is starting to build,” Larson said of Greco, whom he targeted seven times. “I am trusting him more and more. He’s going to be my main target for the next few years.”
The Eagles went into halftime up 35-0 and capped their scoring in the third period with a 5-yard TD run by senior running back Jaxon Wyatt and a 41-yard field goal from Austin Schmidt.
The Bears didn’t score until there was 1:15 left in the game against the Grain Valley reserves on defense.
The Eagles have held their last three opponents to just 9.6 points per game and limited the Bears to 163 total yards, 62 of which came against the Eagles backups.
“That backfield (for Chrisman) is explosive,” Allie said. “And they have a great quarterback. We came into the game thinking we had our work cut out for us. The defense did a good job of containing the run, I think they had one big one.
“We talked about that. If we could keep them from not having runs over 20 yards, we could be successful. We did a good job of not letting that happen. The defense has been playing well all season.”
Sophomore Gabe Storment and juniors Keagan Hart also had interceptions. Camden Nelson got the Eagles (4-3, 2-1 Suburban Middle Six Conference) lone sack and senior linebacker Owen Perkins led Grain Valley with 4.5 tackles.
“We’ve really stepped it up this year,” Hart said of the defense. “We have lost a lot of starters (from last year’s team) but it doesn’t really matter. Day in and day out, we are going to go out there and work.
“We got pressure up front on their quarterback and allowed the linebackers and myself to get what we needed to be.”
Caleb Larson led the offense in a 45-7 rout of the Bears at Independence All-School Stadium.
Photo credit: John Overstreet