When Kevin Carpio was a youngster, sitting in the stands at Grain Valley High School watching his older brother Michael play football, he envisioned what it might be like to be on the field one day with the Eagles.
“When Michael played, during Coach (Forrest) Rovello’s last couple of years at Grain Valley, it was just electric at every game,” Carpio said. “I got as excited in the stands watching as Michael did on the field playing.
“Now, I get that same excitement because football is back at Grain Valley, and I am so proud to be just a small part of it. To play football at Grain Valley, with my football brothers, to have the whole community come out and support us is amazing.
“Friday nights at Grain Valley – there’s no place I would rather be, and I mean that.”
As the undersized nose tackle speaks from his heart, his football brothers – defensive end Cameron Stone and outside linebacker Joey Packer – nod in agreement.
“I’ve only played football for five years,” Stone said, “and I didn’t really know how much this football team meant to the community until the past couple of years when we started having success again and Friday nights became special to everyone in Grain Valley.
“I play next to Joey, and he’s a heart-and-soul guy who would do anything for me, and I would do anything for him – or any of my teammates.”
Carpio and Stone are seniors, and they arrived at Grain Valley the same year coach David Allie took over the struggling program.
“We knew Coach Allie and his staff were going to do something special,” Carpio said.
Packer, a junior, missed out on that first year of Allie and his staff making major changes in the program, but he knew he was going to be part of a special team back when he was a freshman.
“Coach Allie and his staff had been here a year and all the guys were talking about how much fun football was in Grain Valley,” Packer said. “That got me and all the other new guys excited. And now, it’s crazy how much fun football is and how much the community has supported us.
“When we’re down, we get energy from our fans. When we’re out there doing good things, we get that energy and want to do even more good things. That’s why we need them so much Friday night against Harrisonville.”
The stands were rocking the last time the two conference rivals met on Sept. 22 as Ethan Macoubrie grabbed a Tate Collum touchdown pass with no time showing on the clock in a 15-13 Eagles victory.
“I live out here and know what this team means to the community,” said Allie, a former Raytown South High School who led the Cardinals to a state championship game appearance, “but, I want the community to know how much our community means to our kids.
“When we get out on the field and see the stands full, it’s special. That’s what’s so great about being a part of a community that really supports all our programs – football, soccer, basketball, cross country, speech, debate – you name it.”
Allie promised a return to success when he took over the program, and in the third year the Eagles claimed the Missouri River Valley Conference West title, their first conference championship in more than a decade.
The Eagles (9-2) followed that up with another conference crown this year. Now they face revenge-minded Harrisonville (8-3) in Friday’s Class 4 District 6 championship game for a Nov. 11 state quarterfinal berth.
“To be honest with you, I wish we could have done it earlier, like the second year,” Allie said, referring to the first conference title. “But we were on the right path those first couple of years. The kids bought into the program and really responded.
“Last year, there might have been a few surprises, but this year, there were no surprises – we had the target in our back and the guys came through and finished 5-0 in conference (the Eagles are 9-1 in the MRVC West the past two seasons).
“And we’re doing it with the heart and soul kids like the ones ... on offense (Caleb Krell, Collum and Macoubrie) and (these) guys. They aren’t the biggest or the fastest – but they are Eagles! And they love this team and their school and their community and they want to give them something to cheer about.”