by Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior wide receiver Logan Pratt was expected to be one of the football team's biggest weapons this season.
However, an ankle injury against Truman in Week 4 has slowed him down some the past few games and caused him to miss a Week 5 game against Kearney entirely.
In Friday’s Suburban White Conference contest against Raytown, the ankle didn’t appear to be bothering Pratt that much. He caught six passes from quarterback Caleb Larson for 120 yards and two touchdowns to help Grain Valley earn a 21-14 victory at Moody Murray Memorial Field.
“It feels good to finally connect with the QB and feel healthy again,” Pratt said. “After the game last Friday, the pain started to go away and I was thinking, ‘Alright, I can push through this.’ This week, it felt good.”
Larson, who completed 6 of 7 passes for 120 yards, targeted Pratt on all of his attempts. There was a reason for that. The senior runs a 40-yard dash time of 4.4 seconds and is a threat to beat any defense deep.
With the Eagles trailing Raytown 14-13 midway through the fourth period, Pratt beat a Raytown cornerback by a step and caught a 41-yard TD pass from Larson, which ended up being the game-winner. Wide receiver Brek Sloan ran it in on a reverse for a two-point conversion to make it 21-14.
“The struggle he has been through the last few weeks with his ankle being hurt, and not being able to play the full season last year, this game was one where he showed out,” Larson said. “He came in here with heart and passion even with his ankle hurting a little bit.”
Pratt also got wide open on a 25-yard TD pass in the second quarter, which was sandwiched between field goals of 40 and 47 yards from kicker Austin Schmitt, which helped the Eagles take a 13-0 lead in the first half.
A healthy Pratt is a game changer for the Eagles, said head coach David Allie. On Friday, he accounted for 120 of the Eagles 179 yards of offense.
“It’s good to have him back close to 100 percent,” Allie said. “That outside threat is very hard to cover. Teams are going to have to account for that and they might have to double team him. That takes one of the guys who try to stop the run, to help out on Logan. That can open up some running lanes or passing lanes for us.”
Meanwhile, the defense continued to play well. This was the sixth time in eight games that Grain Valley (5-3, 3-1 conference) held an opponent to 14 points or less. It also held the Blue Jays to just 219 total yards.
“Coming into the season, we knew we had some experience coming back up front and in the secondary,” Allie said, “but the linebackers were inexperienced. “They’ve really shined and helped put our defense in the right position. They got some big tackles for loss when we needed them.”
Forkner is one of those linebackers as he led the defense with 8.5 tackles, two for a loss and one sack. His sack came at a big time in the game when Raytown was ahead 14-13 early in the fourth period. The Blue Jays had a chance to extend the lead as it got a first down on third-and-18 and got the ball to the Grain Valley 32-yard line.
The Eagles defense tightened up and was aided by a pair of Raytown penalties. Forkner sacked quarterback Nate Whitebear for a 12-yard loss. On third-and-30, defensive end Rhylan Alcanter brought down Whitebear in the backfield for another 7-yard loss, forcing a punt of fourth down.
“We had a heck of a night and played smash mouth football,” junior defensive end Jake Allen said, who had 6.5 tackles, two of which went for a loss.
”It’s not about the size of the dog but the size of the fight in the dog.”
After Grain Valley got the touchdown and two-point conversion on the ensuing drive, the defense got its most important stop of the game. Raytown had fourth-and-2 at its own 30-yard line and Allen and linebacker Brody Baker read the option run by Whitebear and stopped him before he could reach the first-down marker to get a turnover on downs with 2 minutes left.
“I saw their back roll out and I read the guard,” said Baker, who had five tackles. “The defensive tackles did a great job up front which allowed us linebackers to roam free.”
“Jake has a lot of energy. In the locker room, he’s a different animal.”
The Grain Valley offense ran the clock down to 55 seconds on offense before punting the ball back to the Blue Jays. Raytown didn’t cross midfield as time expired.
Raytown got a touchdown with 26 seconds left on an 18-yard screen pass from Whitebear to running back Zhamari Gary.The Blue Jays took the lead with 1:30 left in the third period following a 1-yard run from Gary out of the Wildcat formation.
Grain Valley will have a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Class 5 District 7 tournament with a win over Belton, which is currently the two-seed, next Friday. That would assure the Eagles home field advantage throughout the district bracket and a first-round bye.
“The last four games have been really physical for us, so that bye is really important for us,” Grain Valley head coach David Allie said. “Having that No. 1 seed is important, but we have to take care of business against Belton.”
Senior wide receiver Logan Pratt caught six passes from quarterback Caleb Larson for 120 yards and two touchdowns to help Grain Valley earn a 21-14 victory. Photo credit: John Overstreet