The clock on the wall of the Grain Valley High School weight room reads 7:15 a.m., while more than 75 youngsters are doing one-handed pushups.
There’s a buzz in the air; one that conflicts with the nasty, rainy scene outside that prevented the members of the Grain Valley football team from practicing on the playing field Thursday morning.
Assistant coach Pete Carpino is leading the indoors workout, under the watchful eye of first-year Eagles head coach David Allie.
After the pushup portion of the workout is complete, the players hop to their feet, clapping and slapping each other on the back. Before they leave the weight room, they gather around Allie, and salute their effort.
"I was a little bit skeptical when Coach Allie came in, because I really liked Coach Tucker," senior Blake Lacey said, referring to former head coach Jimmy Tucker, who resigned following his third season at Grain Valley. "But now that I know him, he’s won me over. He says what he believes and you can tell he knows a lot about football. I can’t wait for the season to start – we all feel that way."
Fellow senior Jacob Miller echoes Lacey’s comments.
"My first impression of Coach Allie, right off the bat, is that he’s going to be a great coach and he’s going to treat us fair. You can tell he has faith in us, and makes everything fun. I’m a senior, and I can’t wait for the start of the season, but I’m having so much fun I wish I was an underclassman so I could be around for a couple of years to see what happens with the football program. I think it’s really going to grow."
Allie is pulling double duty this week as he works with his Eagles team and serves as an assistant coach on the Missouri all-star team that will play the Kansas all-stars next Thursday in the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association All-Star Game at Blue Springs High School’s Peve Stadium.
"First and foremost, I want these kids to have fun," said Allie, who coached at Raytown South for 17 years – with the last 14 as the head coach – before taking the job at Grain Valley.
"I told the guys here to focus on the three F’s - Fun, Focus and Effort. I know that last one doesn’t start with an F, but it has a couple of F’s in it, so they know what I mean."
The only ones having more fun than the players are the coaches. With his larger-than-life personality, one has to try not to have fun when around Allie.
"Let’s face it, doing pushups at 7 in the morning isn’t something most kids look forward to," Allie said, chuckling. "But we make it fun. And if they have fun, they’re going to work that much harder. I came out to Grain Valley because I think they have something special here.
"And please, don’t make that as a slam against Raytown South. They have something special there, too. The hardest decision I ever had to make was leaving Raytown South after 17 years, but when this coaching opportunity came up, I couldn’t say no."
Allie helped turned the Cardinals football program into an Eastern Jackson County power. They reached the Class 5 state championship game a few years ago and now, he hopes to do the same thing with an Eagles program that did not enjoy the success Tucker had hoped for during his short stay.
"We had our camp here last week and I liked what I saw," Allie said. "Then, we went to football camp at Pittsburg State, and I really liked what I saw there. The kids are learning a lot of new things, and it’s so much fun to see them go out and react, instead of having to think about what they should be doing."
He’s been a bit spoiled working with the Missouri all-stars, who feature former Eagles standout Hunter Ramirez.
"You tell those guys something once, and that’s it," Allie said. "It’s kind of what I imagine coaching at the collegiate level would be like. You have the best of the best, and boy, they’re fun to work with.
"And my kids are a lot of fun, too. I can’t imaging being any place but Grain Valley. When I was offered the job, I couldn’t say yes fast enough."