by John Unrein
Grain Valley High School’s Annual Fall Blue and White Day highlighted noticeable changes for the Eagles football program. Among them were emphasized offensive plays and new faces on defense. Action was live during the scrimmage on August 17th, meaning that players were in full pads and were tackling to the ground.
Eagles Head Football Coach David Allie was pleased with what he saw.
“We had a lot of kids getting after it in full pads. The big thing we look for is effort on film. Mistakes will be made. What you do though needs to be full speed and to the whistle.”
“I was pleased with both sides of the football. What should’ve happened occurred. Our defense shut us down at times, along with us having some big plays on offense. We will evaluate film, make corrections, and move forward,” Allie said.
A Missouri high school football field is 53 and 1/3 yards or 160 feet in width and 100 yards in length between the goal lines. The evolution of the spread offense continues to put strain on defenses by making them defend things both vertically and horizontally in space.
The Eagles offense scored during the scrimmage with success on jet sweeps and play action waggle passes to the fullback in the flat. The jet sweep came to notoriety under Manny Matsakis when he was the head football coach at Emporia State University during the 1990’s.
Former players under Matsakis such as Brian Shay garnered much success from the play. Shay would become a three-time All-American Division II Football selection while racking up 15 two hundred-yard games during his career. He would go on to get a training camp tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1999 prior to spending time on the practice squad with the team in 2000.
The advantage gained for the offense on jet sweep occurs by putting a slot receiver in motion across the formation. The snap of the football is timed so that the receiver in motion is handed the football as he meshes with the quarterback running full speed.
The blocks of wide receivers on the other side of the formation are read by the ballcarrier, determining where he cuts and gets upfield. If all goes right, the slot receiver carrying the football is one on one with a safety. The advantage in that matchup tends to go the offensive player. Especially, if they have speed or quickness.
“The jet sweep is something that we haven’t had for a little bit. We have speed at the slot and some guys who can block on the edge. We want to bring the jet sweep back to prominence in our offense. The inside running game gets set up by your ability to move the football outside as well.”
“The waggle gives us a boot action with the quarterback when the backside of the defense starts to fall asleep on the trap and counter runs that we do. Today, the two linebackers we have brought over to fullback caught passes in the flat that stretched the defense and allowed them to score. Both jet sweep and waggle have big play potential in attacking the edge and we didn’t execute them as well as we could’ve last season,” Allie said.
Junior Linebacker Hunter Newsom was among the new faces on the Eagles black shirt defense who showed up with the contributions he made on the field during the scrimmage.
Newsom paused momentarily before grinning when giving his response regarding what enjoyed most about the scrimmage and what it meant to be a member of the black shirt defense. “I love the game of football. It’s great to be around my teammates. I enjoy hitting. The defense did pretty good today. We gave up a play at the end of the scrimmage and had to run for it. That is what it is. We have room for improvement, and we will climb to continue getting better.”
“We are held to a higher standard because we get to wear a black shirt and play defense. It’s an honor to wear the skull and cross bones and what it means. You’re excited when you get to put on the jersey for the first time because you know the responsibility it carries. I want us to become even closer as a unit and that starts with me continuing to get better with my reads at the linebacker spot,” Newsom said.
The term black shirt defense came to significance in the 1960’s at the University of Nebraska. The Cornhusker first string defenders were the original players to wear the jersey during practice. Longtime Nebraska football coach Charlie McBride continued to build the tradition during his tenure as defensive coordinator. The student section at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln is named the “Boneyard” after the black shirts.
Allie cited situational football as the thing he would like to work on the most over the next couple of weeks prior to the home opener kickoff against the visiting Savannah Savages on Friday, August 30th.
“Practicing with a twenty-five second clock will be important. Adding special teams in a live situation now that we are in full pads is needed. We will explore and look to execute in situations that come up during a football game during practice.”
The Eagles will participate in a jamboree at Raytown South High School on Friday, August 23rd. Opponents will include the Raytown South Cardinals, Truman Patriots, and Lee’s Summit West Titans.