by John Unrein
Fundamentals and their execution matter significantly in football. It should be no surprise then that the Grain Valley Eagles returned to the football field during team camp the week of June 29th focusing on simple things that matter. Mother Nature was good to those in attendance at camp with a breeze, overcast skies, and temperatures in the low 80’s.
Players have had the opportunity to see their coaches in the weight room since mid-June as well as meeting virtually with them. It’s hard to replace the physical repetitions you get through a camp setting through. Not to mention the comradery that builds from players getting to be around their peers and coaches.
Thirty-one of the ninety camp attendees for grades 9-12 worked in the north end zone of Moody Murray Stadium at Grain Valley High School in the offensive line group. Hip and ankle flexibility along with drive block progression and pass protection sets were on the drill menu. Social distancing of six feet was encouraged by assistant varsity offensive line coaches Mike Tarrants and Gavin Grillo.
“Drive progression may seem monotonous, but one inch in the trenches determines if you make or miss your block. The myelin around your nerve cells grow from this process. Our offense requires offensive lineman to be able to move 360 degrees,” Tarrants said in a loud and gruff voice.
“Retrace your steps and be light on your feet. Be athletic. No buffaloes in a water hole.”
One of the linemen paying keen attention to the instruction of Tarrants and Grillo is senior right guard Jack Bailey. A position Bailey has started at since he was a sophomore. The veteran of the offensive line has earned his stripes. Proof of that resides in Bailey’s selection last season as a first team Suburban Blue All-Conference selection.
Bailey is thrilled that football is back. He’s also excited to get the opportunity to play next to his best friend who’s competing for the starting job at right tackle.
“Football is a brotherhood. This is my second family. During the summer and fall, it’s my first family though because I spend so much time with these guys. I love all of them. Junior Cooper Terry is my best friend and we are going to have a lot of fun this season with him competing to be the starter at right tackle,” Bailey said.
“I have a leadership role on my shoulders this year as well. I have been here the longest of the guys up front. I have to lead by example by doing my job to the best of my ability and then communicating with those around me in holding them accountable.”
Bailey concluded, “I am passionate about this sport. I am hoping for a good and full season for us. I’ve watched quite a few Kansas City Chiefs replays during quarantine to get my football fix along with working out.”
The Eagles Blackshirt Defense was busy as well during camp. Defensive Coordinator Pete Carpino kept players engaged and on the move. Pursuit drill allowed for all eleven members of the defense to take proper angles in getting to the ball carrier. Alignment and assignment were repetitiously drilled through run fits and timing blitzes.
Carpino juggled many hats during tackling drills, including spraying disinfectant on the hands and arms after each member of the team concluded taking down the tackling ring.
“Keep your eyes up, wrap up with your head behind the ring, and drive your feet through the tackle. This helps us be sound as a defense and get off the field. Come see me each time after you’re done with the drill to get disinfectant,” Carpino said.
Highlighting the most competitive part of camp was the pass skeleton period done at the end of each practice. This segment allowed new and returning members of the offense and defensive secondary to go head to head. Among those motivating their teammates were two seniors, defensive back Trent Knox and quarterback Cole Keller.
Knox was determined to keep the offensive side of the football quiet by limiting their completions. Keller was mobile and accurate in his performance at quarterback, showing no ill effects of the knee injury that ended his 2019 season.
Eagles Head Football Coach David Allie was pleased with camp attendance and results.
“This week has been good. We have displayed a high energy level. These kids have missed football and it shows,” Allie said.
“This camp usually happens in May. We would put in our base schemes to take to Pitt State or whatever college camp we would attend. Right now, it’s baby steps. We’ve been installing our offense and defense. The incoming freshman run similar schemes at middle school. This is still new to them in a lot of ways and we try to set the foundation for them through teaching and repetition, so their confidence grows.”
Allie continued, “The start of football is still fun for me some twenty years in. I don’t sleep the night before out of anticipation. The day I don’t wake up excited to do this or eager to see kids is the day I’ll know it’s time to go. I’m still jazzed to be here and the joy on the kids faces has a lot to with that.”