by John Unrein
A jubilant post-game socially distanced team huddle following the Grain Valley Eagles season opening win over the Smithville Warriors only told part of the story. The smiles of Eagles players and coaches after their hard fought 34-24 victory was in part sweet redemption due to last season’s week three loss versus the Warriors. The rest of the joy making up the smiles for Grain Valley was an exhale after a summer of hard work and uncertainty due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Eagles defensive coordinator Pete Carpino framed the moment best in his comments to the team following the game.
“Congratulations on your first state championship of the season. We can’t count on every game on the schedule being there due to things beyond our control. That’s why we will savor this win and treat each week like we are playing for a championship,” Carpino said.
“I am proud of your effort and expect the same from you next week. Great job tonight.”
The Eagles were able to move the ball efficiently on offense with option runs and play action passing. This helped Grain Valley overcome what in the past has been a stingy Smithville defense that plays games up front with their defensive line in the form of stunts and twists to wreck their opponents blocking schemes.
Grain Valley’s use of one and two tight ends in their formations along with a steady diet of option football limited Smithville’s effectiveness in slowing down the Eagles offense. Senior quarterback Cole Keller demonstrated sound decision making, reading pass coverages and when to keep or pitch the football while running downhill.
Keller would go six for eight through the air for 149 yards and one touchdown. The Eagles signal caller would also rack up 41 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Keller’s second rushing score on an option keep with 3:11 left in the fourth quarter pushed the Eagles lead to ten points in helping to secure the outcome.
“You tend to have confidence in things you know a lot about. We were prepared to face them (Smithville) with our film study and practice preparation. We came out tonight and did what we do best, which is running the football. That set up our passing game as well,” Keller said.
“Our offensive line was successful tonight up front in creating lanes for us to rush the football. Parker Bosserman was awesome tonight as well in all three aspects of the game.”
Keller displayed maturity and wisdom in complimenting the Eagles offensive line. The right side of Grain Valley’s offensive line led by center Donovan McBride, guard Jack Bailey, and tackle Cooper Terry effectively mauled the left side of the Warriors defense.
The Eagles “down” or off tackle trap play with a pulling backside guard provided a solid path for Grain Valley ballcarriers all night long. Add in option runs on the perimeter, and the second and third levels of Smithville’s defense could not cheat on their reads and had to fight hard to shed blocks.
“We stayed on our blocking paths tonight. That allowed us to pick up the games they play up front in that we would run into someone when they crossed our path,” Bailey said.
“We got the first game jitters out tonight and we’ll be back to get them next week. This whole summer with the question being whether we would get any games, that makes this win that much more special.”
Eagles senior wide receiver Parker Bosserman picked up where he left off last season in his role as the “Swiss Army Knife” of the Eagles football team. Bosserman would grab four receptions for 113 yards and one touchdown catch. Route running and release from the line of scrimmage have complimented Bosserman’s quickness for improvement in getting open in the opponent’s secondary. Equally as notable was Bosserman filling in as a returner on kickoff return and as a member of Grain Valley’s defensive secondary.
“I never get bored with the roles I have on this team. There is no going through the motions. I get to expand my variety catching the football and making tackles on defense,” Bosserman said.
“In our offense we take what they give us more so then targeting personnel matchups. We attack the area of grass on the field they leave open.”
Defensive leaders for the Eagles black shirt defense included linebacker Hunter Newsom and cornerback Trent Knox. Newsom was effective attacking the line of scrimmage in racking up tackles along with lateral pursuit in getting to Smithville’s wide receivers on short screens.
Knox would provide coverage against Smithville’s sophomore quarterback Andrew Hedgecorth’s favorite targets. Knox was also not shy about coming up in run support on outside runs and securely putting the ball carrier on the ground.
Post-game traditions have also changed in the COVID-19 era. Eagles Head Football Coach David Allie gave instruction to his team not to shake hands after the game. Instead, fist bumps on air were given to demonstrate sportsmanship by both teams. Allie was pleased with this team’s effort.
“Smithville is a well-coached team. The last time we played them, we made some unforced errors. That’s why we made one of our offensive goals no unforced errors for this week. Cole (Keller) did a good job putting us in the right plays at the line of scrimmage. His maturity and growth in this offense showed tonight,” Allie said.
“Our offensive line played well tonight. They stayed on track with their assignment and were often able to pick off the guy crossing their face with games that Smithville would play due to their slanting fronts.”
Allie concluded, “A football adage is that you will see your team’s biggest improvement between games one and two. We have some things to work on in all phases of the game. Kickoff coverage and the missed extra point tonight will be areas of focus for us next week. Oak Park is a Class 5 program that we will have to study in preparation for our home opener.”
The Eagles next game will be against the Oak Park Northmen on Friday, September 4th at Moody Murray Stadium in Grain Valley.