PLEASANT HILL, Mo. - Grain Valley coach Jimmy Tucker did his best to maintain his composure following a disappointing 38-15 district loss to undefeated Pleasant Hill.
“I want to address the seniors,” Tucker said, as many of the eight seniors on the 4-6 team huddled together, tears streaming down their faces. “I've never been as proud of a group of seniors as I am of you.”
Tucker was all but abandoned by a class that started with 40-some underclassmen and ended with the eight seniors he was addressing at midfield at damp Pleasant Hill.
“You guys mean so much to me, to this program. I can't thank you enough.”
While the senior class on this year's team was small, the underclassmen could help energize a program that features a bright future.
“I hate to play like this, in the biggest game of the season,” said sophomore quarterback Kellen Holland, who was 20 of 37 for 182 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. “I played a bad game. Our defense didn't do anything, and we lost our last game and have to say goodbye to the seniors.
“It's like Coach said, they meant so much to this team – they meant everything to me and all the other underclassmen. We came over here tonight thinking we were going to get the win, and we didn't play well enough.
“Pleasant Hill is a good team, and we needed to play a lot better than we did tonight to win this one.”
After a scoreless first period that was plagued by electrical problems which caused the scoreboard to malfunction, the 10-0 Roosters put up 14 second-quarter points. They tacked on 17 in a third period that was delayed several minutes following an injury to Roosters running back Mason Hertzog, who was taken off the field on a stretcher with his helmet taped to a body board.
The Eagles managed one first-half score on a 33-yard pass from Holland to David Hudgens with 52 seconds left in the half.
“When it was 14-7 at the half, we were still in the game,” Tucker said. “Our defense, I thought, played its best – or one of its best games this season – but we had so many turnovers and they had the short field all night long.
“We made a couple of big stops in the red zone, but we kept turning the ball over and hurting ourselves.”
Running back Brandon Cassity was the most painful thorn in the Eagles’ side as he carried the ball 19 times for 115 yards and three touchdowns.
After the Roosters built a three touchdown lead, they kept the ball on the ground to run out the second-half clock.
Grain Valley's final score came in the closing seconds of the game when Holland hit senior running back Brice Quinn for a 20-yard TD. Zach Ehlen then carried the ball into the end zone for the 2-point conversion.
“We played all year with only eight seniors, and the eight seniors we had gave it everything,” said senior Hunter Ramirez, who had eight receptions for 54 yards and five carries for 45 yards. “Our eight seniors were a part of this program the last four years, and I'll never forget my time here. We didn't have as much success as we'd have liked, but we worked hard, and I am so proud to call them my teammates.”