by Michael Smith
A week after forcing three turnovers in a strong defensive effort against Kearney, the Grain Valley defense showed once again that it’s one of the strongest units in the Kansas City area.
The Eagles were able to hold a Fort Osage team in check that came into Friday’s game at Moody Murray Memorial Field averaging 39 points per game. However, costly mistakes and a little bit of bad luck doomed the Eagles in a 9-8 loss in a Suburban White Conference game.
“We unfortunately couldn’t get out of our own way offensively,” Grain Valley head coach David Allie said, whose team had eight penalties for 50 yards.
“We’d get some yardage then get a penalty. It’s stuff we can control but we didn’t tonight. We can’t beat ourselves”
It was a defensive battle early on as the game was tied at 0 going into the second quarter. The Eagles finally broke through with 4:34 left in the third when senior Tristin Pouncil blocked a punt from Greg Menne which was kicked out of bounds for a safety and a 2-0 Grain Valley lead.
On Fort Osage’s ensuing drive, junior linebacker Cole Elliott jumped a route from wide receiver Lorezo Fenner and intercepted a pass from Menne and returned it to the Indians 24-yard line. On third down, quarterback Caleb Larson fit a pass between two Fort Osage defense backs as sophomore wide receiver Anthony Greco made a leaping catch for a touchdown at the 1:09 mark to make it 8-0.
Larson, who was holding the ball for an extra point attempt from kicker Austin Schmidt pulled the ball and tried to find a receiver in the end zone. His pass fell incomplete as the 2-point attempt failed.
The 8-0 lead held until halftime, but when the third quarter started, that’s when the bad luck hit the Eagles. Schmidt, who is normally automatic in terms of kicking touchbacks, had a short kick that landed around the Fort Osage 19-yard line.
Indians wide receiver Lorenzo Fenner turned the kick into a big return and made it to the Eagles 2-yard line. Fort Osage almost gave the ball away on a muffed snap on the first play, but the senior running back Javon Hall leaped over the Eagles defensive line for a 3-yard touchdown run that narrowed the gap to 8-6 after a failed two-point conversion at the 11:24 mark in the third period.
“He slipped,” Allie said of Schmidt’s kickoff. “The turf was wet. That was bad luck. We obviously don’t want to kick it to that dude.”
On Grain Valley’s next drive, it made it into Fort Osage territory for the fourth time. Early in the drive, Grain Valley starting running back Jaxon Wyatt injured his ankle and did not come back into the game.
That left the Eagles (3-3, 1-1 conference) with just one-half of their dynamic running back duo in freshman DJ Harris. On fourth-and-1 from the Fort Osage 33, he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage for a turnover on downs.
That was the story for the Grain Valley rushing attack which only accumulated 77 yards, with 55 of those coming from Larson. The Eagles had a hard time blocking Fort Osage nose tackle Brock Bransteitter, who helped stuff Eagle runs up the middle.
“They had a big ol’ nose (tackle) that we didn’t do a good job against,” Allie said. “He gave us fits inside.”
After the Indians (5-1, 3-0 conference) got the ball back, they made it to the Grain Valley 14 before the Eagles forced a fourth down. Kicker Xander Shepherd was able to sneak a 31-yard field goal inside the right post to give his team the lead for good with 1:52 remaining in the third.
Late in the fourth quarter, Grain Valley had one last chance to score. On third-and-1, Harris, who has been a productive player for the Eagles all season, got enough yards for a first down. A subsequent fumble was recovered by junior outside linebacker Ryan Thorpe at the Fort 37.
With just a little more than 3 minutes remaining, Fort Osage ran out the rest of the clock.
The Eagles defense was a bright spot. They held Fort Osage to just 148 total yards. The effort was led by senior linebacker Gage Forkner, who had 10 tackles and junior defensive end Jake Allen who had a team-high 1.5 sacks.
“Our defense stepped up,” Allie said. “To hold that offense to (nine) points is pretty phenomenal.”
The Eagles defense was a bright spot. They held Fort Osage to just 148 total yards. The effort was led by senior linebacker Gage Forkner (#7 right foreground), who had 10 tackles and junior defensive end Jake Allen (#20) who had a team-high 1.5 sacks.
Photo credit: John Overstreet