It is Nate Chaiprathum’s first year playing football, and the Grain Valley junior kicker missed two field goals earlier in the game.
But with less than 40 seconds left in the game and the team trailing 18-17, head coach David Allie elected to play for the field goal instead of the touchdown.
That was a vote of confidence for his kicker.
“You saw the ones he missed, he had the leg,” Allie said. “It’s his first year playing but when he comes out in warmups, he’s good from 45 (yards out). He’s got the leg. We had to keep going to the well. They called a timeout and tried to ice him. I said, ‘They called that for you. You can do this. That’s (setting up for a field goal) for you. We believe in you.’”
Turns out Allie’s judgement was correct.
After running a couple of rushing plays, 6.6 seconds remained on the clock. That set up Chaiprathum with an opportunity to be the hero. He calmly lofted a kick right in the center of the uprights for a 31-yard field goal with 1.6 seconds left and his team went on to improve to 2-1 and take a 20-18 victory over Raytown Friday at Moody Murry Memorial Field.
“In the middle of the game I made a couple of mistakes, missed a field goal,” Chaiprathum said. “I just took a deep breath, calmed myself and did what I do in practice.”
After Chaiprathum made the kick, he sprinted toward the 50-yard line as his team at the Grain Valley fans went into a frenzy. He leaped into the arms of of an assistant coach and threw his first in the air.
It was a surreal moment for the junior, whose primary sport is soccer as he took over for his brother Adam as a defender for the Eagles soccer team.
“It was very shocking and exciting because this is my first year,” he said. “But Coach Alllie believed in me and he’s a great coach.”
Now, he has something to boast about to his brother, who was a big part of Grain Valley’s third-place finish in the Class 3 state soccer tournament last year.
“I will. I will definitely brag about it to him,” Chaiprathum said, grinning.
That moment wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for a play call by Allie moments earlier. The Eagles had a fourth-and-six with less than a minute left in Raytown territory. Quarterback Tate Collum faked right, then quickly whipped over to the left and found a wide open Michael Marquez on a screen pass as he picked up 10 yards for the first down.
“They were all on the left side so when we saw it, I thought it would be tough running that play,” Marquez said. “I was able to get those 6-7 yards whatever it was to get the first down. It was great.”
Marquez had to take a bulk of the carries late in the game as backfield mate Caleb Krell went down with a leg injury in the third quarter. He carried the ball 19 times for 73 yards, while Krell, who broke many tackles, gained 153 yards and scored a touchdown.
“He hits that hole hard,” Allie said of Krell. “He’s the best one on our team that does that. That was giving him success in the first half, he was able to get past that first level even on the edges.”
Marquez and Krell provides Grain Valley with a thunder-and-lightning combination in the backfield as Marquez is the speedy edge runner and Krell is the bruiser who pounds the ball between the tackles.
Raytown struck first at the 11:01 mark in the second when quarterback Jake Smirl hit Desmond Hutson for a 17-yard TD pass to put the team up 6-0. The Eagles responded shortly after when Krell found a lot of room to run along the right sideline and he plowed through a couple of defenders for a 39-yard TD run. His team made the point after try to take a 7-6 lead.
Chaiprathum connected on a 31-yarder with 7.7 seconds left in the half to push the Eagles lead to 10-6 at halftime. Early in the third, the Eagles completed a 52-yard drive capped by a 1-yard plunge from Collum to make it 17-6.
However, a blocked punt and a 36-yard touchdown return by Harrison Johnson and his 2-yard score with a little more than 5 minutes remaining in the game put Raytown up 18-17. That was until Chaiprathum came through with the biggest kick of his young career.
“He’s a soccer player so he knows what competition is about,” Allie said. “But it’s not quite the same when you are standing still and everybody is yelling and screaming and you come through like that. It was awesome.”
Added Marquez: “Phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. To come through the clutch like that, that was so great.”