by Michael Smith
There are two things in football that can prevent a team from getting a win – turnovers and penalties.
The former is something that hurt the Grain Valley football team in their Week 1 33-14 loss against Fort Osage as it committed five turnovers in that contest.
Following a win against Grandview last week, the Eagles had a chance to have a winning record for the first time in 2022.
However, miscues haunted Grain Valley once again in Friday’s non-conference contest against Oak Park. The Eagles had three turnovers and eight penalties for 70 yards in a 14-10 loss in non-conference action.
“Offensively, we had to capitalize on opportunities and we did not do that,” Grain Valley head coach David Allie said. “We either had a penalty or a fumble. We drove the ball but couldn’t finish.”
“We just have to execute better. That’s on everybody. That’s on the players, that’s on the coaches, everybody has to come out and do a better job.”
For Allie, he wants to figure out a way for his Eagles to limit their mistakes.
“Bottom line, we have to quit causing ourselves problems,” Allie said. “We got to pull together. You have two losses now and people start to question what the team is doing. You got people on the team questioning. You can’t do that. We just have to go out there and execute.”
The Eagles (1-2) had issues against the Oak Park offense early on. The Northmen scored two touchdowns on two time-consuming drives. Sophomore running back Travon Pankey, who had 81 yards on 19 carries, scored on a 14-yard outside run to the right for a 6-0 lead following a missed extra point.
After the Eagles’ first drive stalled around midfield, Oak Park punched it in again. The Northmen had the ball at the Grain Valley 24, and on third-and-17 quarterback Aiden Hinkle connected with senior wide receiver Xavier Williams on a short screen pass for 22 yards and a first down.
Two plays later, senior running back Marlon Gant Jr. scored in a 1-yard run up the middle and also crossed the goal line on a 2-point conversion to make it 14-0 at the 10:20 mark in the second period.
Grain Valley nearly had a response on the ensuing drive when junior wide receiver Anthony Greco caught an 18-yard pass from senior quarterback Caleb Larson for what would have been a score, but it was wiped out by an illegal formation penalty.
Moments later, Larson had a pass intercepted by Oak Park senior linebacker Karl Knack at the Northmen 2 after he rushed his pass when the Northmen front line got pressure on him.
Grain Valley later forced Oak Park to punt and nearly had another touchdown when one referee ruled that sophomore running back DJ Harris crossed the goal line for a touchdown on a 7-yard run. However, the other officials ruled him a half yard short.
After a fumble that lost the Eagles two yards and a penalty that pushed them back even farther, they ended up having to settle for a 33-yard field goal from senior Austin Schmitt as they went into halftime down 14-3.
“We have to overcome that,” Allie said of the touchdown by Harris that was overturned. “We did not do that.”
The Eagles held the Oak Park offense scoreless in the second half, but penalties and turnovers continued to hold them back. A pass from Larson to junior Noah Olah that gained 30-yards was wiped out by a holding call on the opening drive of the second half.
“Those penalties killed us,” Allie said. “We couldn’t overcome turnovers in the first game and we couldn’t overcome penalties today. We continue to beat ourselves.”
They later found the end zone with 1:10 left in the third when Larson connected with Olah on a 11-yard TD pass on a play-action pass to make it 14-10.
On Grain Valley’s first drive of the fourth period, it was in Northmen territory when Grant sacked Larson and knocked the ball loose, which was recovered by the Northmen at the Oak Park 36 with 11:20 remaining.
The Eagles defense came through again with less than four minutes left when Grant fumbled and the ball was recovered by junior defensive end Rhylan Alcanter at the Grian Valley 34 with 3:34 left.
“The defense really buckled down there at the end,” Allie said. “Defense, shout out to those guys, they played well.”
The team got the ball all the way to the Oak Park 18, but Larson floated a pass over the middle after being pressured once again, and Knaack leaped in the air and picked the ball off with 40 seconds left to seal it.
Larson rushed the ball 13 for 71 yards and completed 19 of 26 passes for 201 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Senior Keagan Hart caught seven passes for 65 yards and Olah had five catches for 63 yards and a score.
Photo credit: Clara Jaques