EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. – Tate Collum was going to get a first down, and it didn’t matter if he had to drag the whole defense with him.
Collum, Grain Valley’s senior quarterback and punter, took off on a fake punt on fourth-and-8 with the Eagles clinging to a 14-12 lead late in the third quarter Friday at Excelsior Springs.
Momentum seemed on the hosts side as they had scored minutes earlier and looked poised to get the ball back, but Collum had other ideas.
Encountering a handful of defenders four yards short of the first down, Collum kept his legs churning, broke multiple tackles and eventually picked up 15 yards, swinging energy back to the Eagles as they scored three plays later and eventually took a 27-12 Missouri River Valley Conference West win.
“I checked into a fake, but they had some guys that got to me pretty quickly, and I don’t know how many were on me," said Collum, who finished with 118 yards passing and 48 yards rushing. "The thought that was running through my head was, ‘I need to get this first down.’ I just tried breaking the tackles, throwing the defenders off me, and I eventually spun away and went up the sideline and got the first down. I was determined to get the first down. We needed it.”
Grain Valley coach David Allie said Collum’s run was more impressive considering the rest of the team expected something different.
“We actually blocked it the other way,” he said, “but Tate just made stuff happen and that play was huge. Tate is just a warrior.”
While Collum’s play thwarted any ideas of an Excelsior Springs comeback, running back Caleb Krell did the bulk of Grain Valley’s work on offense.
Krell finished with 152 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 23 carries, gaining all of his yards on runs up the middle.
“I feel like the middle was open and our offensive line was able to block anybody that was there and the play just worked,” Krell said. “We thought that was something that might be open based on one of the formations we saw on film.”
The Tigers (6-2, 2-2 MRVC West) opened the game with a 75-yard scoring drive in six plays that took less than four minutes off the clock, with Landon Seely reaching the end zone from the 15.
But the Eagles’ defense made plays the rest of the game when it had to, forcing four punts, a turnover on downs and producing an interception on six out of Excelsior Springs’ next seven possessions.
“Our defensive staff did a tremendous job adjusting after that first drive,” Allie said. “Preparing for the (option) in one week is tough enough, but when you add in all the shifts and formations they present, it makes it that much tougher.”
Grain Valley (6-2, 4-0) answered the Tigers’ opening drive with a scoring drive of its own, going 64 yards in five plays capped by Krell’s 6-yard run.
The Eagles scored later in the first on a 78-yard drive when Krell plunged in from the 1.
Runs up the middle by Krell accounted for nine of Grain Valley’s first 14 plays.
“If something works for us, we’re going to run it until they stop it,” Collum said. “We felt like all game that play was working, so we just stuck to it.”
Grain Valley turned the ball over on downs at its own 36 early in the third, and the Tigers took advantage, Jackson Creason diving in from the 1 a few plays later to cut their deficit to 14-12.
It seemed like they might have an opportunity to take the lead until Collum’s run on the fake punt set up Krell’s 2-yard TD run.
Michael Marquez crossed the goal line from the 33 late in the fourth to seal Grain Valley’s win, setting up an opportunity next week at Oak Grove for the Eagles to go undefeated through the MRVC West.
“We go into a game against our arch rival, and it’s probably going to be the last time we’re ever going to play them,” Allie said. “Both sides are going to be fired up and it’s one of those games where you can toss the records out the window. It’s going to be a dogfight.”