Entering Friday night’s regular-season finale with Odessa, Grain Valley wasn’t concerned about its potential opponents when Class 4 District 7 play begins next week, according to Eagles football coach Jimmy Tucker.
“We knew we just had to win tonight,” Tucker said.
And Grain Valley did.
The Eagles scored on six of their eight first-half possessions and rolled to a 42-13 Missouri River Valley Conference West Division victory. The win ended a four-game losing streak and put the Eagles at 4-5 entering district play, which begins with a game at Pleasant Hill next Thursday. They finished 1-4 in league play.
“It was great to come out and get it over with in the first half,” Tucker said.
A balanced attacked helped Grain Valley put it away by halftime. Sophomore quarterback Kellen Holland completed 11 of 23 passes for 205 yards and four touchdowns, and the Eagles racked up 201 yards and two touchdowns on 27 rushing attempts.
“The linemen blocked really well tonight,” Holland said. “They gave us a good running game.”
But it was the passing game that accounted for Grain Valley’s two first-quarter touchdowns. Holland’s 15-yard scoring pass to Zack Ehlen and 44-yard scoring pass to Hunter Ramirez helped the Eagles take a 15-0 first-quarter lead.
Brenton Leighow’s 1-yard TD run made it 21-0 with 11:34 left in the second quarter. Holland then added a 21-yard scoring pass to Ramirez, and Evan Velasquez followed that with an extra-point kick with 8:54 remaining. David Hudgens’ 1-yard run made it 34-0 with 7:01 remaining, and Holland’s 18-yard toss to Jacob Krell and Ramirez’s two-point conversion run with 50 seconds remaining provided Grain Valley’s final points.
The Eagles had two more scoring opportunities. A fumble recovery and a facemask penalty put the Eagles at the Odessa 14 during the first half’s closing seconds. However, they opted to take a knee, run out the clock into halftime. During the third quarter, Velasquez attempted a 47-yard field goal, but his kick fell short.
“It’s really hard to know what to do there (with a big lead) – whether to try to score again (or) not to score,” Tucker said. “But I felt like we did the right thing.”
The Bulldogs (2-7, 0-5) scored their 13 points during the fourth quarter. Losing the shutout bid didn’t bother Grain Valley sophomore Triston Hillyard, who contributed a third-quarter interception.
“We still got the win,” Hillyard said. “We needed to pull out a win tonight.”