by John Unrein
Grain Valley’s impressive 53-22 win over the visiting William Chrisman Bears on October 9th made a big statement. The Eagles kept their undefeated record intact by improving to 7-0. The continued streak of scoring at least 30 points a game also persists for Grain Valley. There was no homecoming week letdown or senior night jitters.
The biggest statement made was by Grain Valley’s coaching staff. Football is a game of adjustments. For the second week in a row, a Suburban Conference opponent tried to take away what the Eagles do best on offense.
The Bears came out in a 33 split front on defense. Putting both their defensive tackles on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard was done to limit the Eagle’s “down” rushing play (off-tackle trap with a backside pulling guard). The idea being that having a defensive tackle in both “B gaps” where the Eagles wanted to run would restrict their ability to move the football on the ground.
The previous week had witnessed the Fort Osage Indians pinch (cross the face of the offensive tackle or tight end) their defensive ends into “B gaps” in an effort to do the same thing. Five and six weeks into the football season, opponents had game planned ways outside the norm of their defensive scheme to be successful against Grain Valley. The desired results were not realized.
Eagles head football coach David Allie adjusted to William Chrisman’s defensive alignment with a myriad of formidable responses on offense. Grain Valley would turn to running option, quarterback boot, fullback dive, play action slant passes off of dive, fade passes, slot receiver sweeps and reverses off of orb motion, and getting into double tight end formations (which creates 8 gaps to defend at the line of scrimmage) that limited where the Bears defensive lineman could line up for good measure.
Having the needed alternatives in the Eagles’ offense produced 422 total yards on 45 plays, good for a 9.4 yard per play average.
William Chrisman’s 33 split front on defense meant that both of their inside linebackers where aligned in “A gap” on either side of the Eagles center. This meant a greater distance for both linebackers to travel in getting to the outside edge of the defense against options, quarterback boots, and sweeps. Furthermore, it meant having to come downhill to fill when Grain Valley ran dive with no defensive tackle directly in front of them to block the path of oncoming offensive linemen.
A further consequence of the Bears having to respect inside handoffs was a large chasm opening up where the linebackers use to be prior to the snap of the football. This space was filled by Eagle slot receivers running slant patterns into the area after the handoff fake executed by quarterback Cole Keller. Allie would call this play three times on an Eagles scoring drive during the third quarter.
“We’ve seen a lot of odd front defenses over the last five weeks. They (William Chrisman) came out in an even front with a stem (moving defensive tackles into a 33 split just prior to the snap) and we went three and out on our first drive. Now, we did not execute as well as we should’ve on that first drive either,” Allie said.
“Then we got into double tight end formation, they didn’t stem. They started loading the box and we went outside with the football. We also tried to exploit the coverages they presented us with successful routes we ran.”
Keeping a team’s focus at a high level is a hard enough challenge through a typical season. Allie and his staff have been able to do so with huge a return thus far. Focusing on what is important is what Allie attributes to the result.
“We always try to find the silver lining with the cloud that’s above us with COVID-19. This team knows that they are not guaranteed another game or practice. I think that has done as much as anything to keep their focus. Hat’s off to our kids for not being anxious or trying to force stuff,” Allie said.
“Things can get stale when get into week seven of the season. We adjusted our practice schedule a little this week by cutting one day short and another by watching a middle school football game. That helps to keep the legs fresh.”
Allie concluded, “This is a tight group. The victory for the seniors tonight is special. The kids will remember this game for a long time.”
An example of the Eagles being a tight knit team is the chemistry between Keller and wide receiver Parker Bosserman. Both speak highly of one another and have accepted their roles on the team as Keller returned from injury as the Eagles signal caller heading into this season, a role that Bosserman filled at the completion of the 2019 season.
“Cole (Keller) does a good job from the snap on reading where to go with the football. He puts it in a place where I can get it and my job is to finish the completion by reeling it in,” Bosserman said.
Keller added, “I got guys that will catch the ball and guys that will block. When you have so many weapons around you it makes it easy to have the nights we have. The three touchdown passes I threw through the air tonight are because we have guys who don’t drop passes.”
“All I did this summer was work on my footwork to improve my accuracy. I knew this offense was full of guys who could go get the football and I wanted to make sure I could get it to them. I have improved throwing the football, but you are always sharpening in looking to get better.”
Keller would go on to rack up 144 passing yards and 3 touchdowns through the air. Keller would further pad his stat line with 99 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. Bosserman would complement Keller’s work by hauling in four receptions for 55 yards and 2 touchdowns to go along with 2 rushes for 32 yards on the ground.
Homecoming king and offensive guard Jack Bailey worked well with a new partner in crime at right tackle filling in for the injured Cooper Terry. Junior Brycen Crandall teamed with Bailey in making several key blocks for the Eagles. Perhaps none bigger than Crandall’s block of a William Chrisman linebacker on the opening play of the second half that sprung running back Jaxon Wyatt for an 80 yard touchdown run.
Bailey was all smiles and humility with his post-game comments.
“It’s a blessing to get recognized by the student body in being homecoming king. I love this school and Grain Valley.”
“The communication between Brycen (Crandall) and I helped with our success tonight in rushing the football. We kept things simple in discussing who we block prior to the snap each play. We had a lot of fun.”
Defensively, the Eagles were happy to see the return of defensive tackle Quincy Jones. The 6’ 1’’ 280 pound senior wasted little time in picking up where he had left off previously. Jones would contribute 1.5 tackles and a sack in his team’s winning effort.
Linebacker Hunter Newsom continued his streak of being the Eagles leading tackler with 11 tackles, including one tackle for loss. Newsom was joined by fellow linebackers Jayden Jacobson and Zach Kirk in trying to stop Bears running back DaShawn Shannon.
William Chrisman would lean on sweeps to Shannon with two pulling guards as the staple of their offense. Shannon would compile 132 yards on the ground and one rushing touchdown.
Jacobson sought to keep Shannon pinned in with maintaining outside leverage and forcing runs back to the inside. A timely interception with 26 seconds left in the third quarter by Jacobson stymied William Chrisman’s attempt to build second half momentum.
Eagles defensive end Donovan McBride provided a consistent pass rush for his team against the Bears. His endeavors yielded a second quarter sack of William Chrisman quarterback Dayne Herl with 15 seconds left prior to halftime. McBride has accepted and excelled in his role of moving to defensive end on passing downs this season.
“Third and long is not rocket science. What are teams going to do but pass the football. Especially, when they have no time outs left heading into the half,” McBride said.
“I have enjoyed the move to defensive end. When you play on the inside, you get a lot of double teams. So when I’m on the edge, I should win those because they are one on one matchups.”
The Eagles (7-0) have their work cut out for them as they travel to Raytown (4-3) in a matchup against the Blue Jays on October 16th. Raytown has possessed daunting size and speed in recent years under the direction of head coach Logan Minnick. Grain Valley will look to continue to make a statement against Suburban Conference foes.
Above: Eagles defense pens in William Chrisman ball carrier.
Below: Parker Bosserman finds the end zone from Keller pass.
Photo credit: John Overstreet