The Grain Valley football team went to the reliable winning combination of running the football and playing tough defense Friday.
The Eagles rolled up 246 yards on the ground and kept visiting Pleasant Hill’s offense in check most of the night as they opened Missouri River Valley Conference West play with a 20-12 victory on homecoming.
“We really studied film and prepared for their spread offense,” said Kole Wagener, a senior linebacker and Eagles captain who helped keep the Roosters to 181 yards of offense. “Everyone knew their responsibilities and did their job the entire night. We stayed disciplined and that’s how we stayed dominant is the whole team worked together.”
Nine different Grain Valley players combined for 60 rushing attempts as it was apparent the Eagles were going to try and establish the run from the beginning. Noah Buseman and Michael Marquez scored on nearly identical counter runs in the first half, Buseman crossing the goal line from 35 yards out and Marquez sprinting in from the Rooster 33.
“We had the ground game going, and they were aggressive going to the run,” Grain Valley coach David Allie said. “We snuck in the first-half those counter plays that broke free and scored. We did well up front.”
Grain Valley quarterback Tate Collum said the Eagles knew the counter would be open coming into the game.
“We just kept running it, and it kept working,” he said.
Pleasant Hill could only manage 26 yards against the swarming Eagles defense in the first half and never entered Grain Valley’s side of the field. But the Roosters entered halftime trailing only 13-6 thanks to Zach Gray’s 48-yard punt return and the Eagles missing an opportunity on Pleasant Hill’s goal line just before the break.
Midway through the third, Collum scored on a 16-yard run to push Grain Valley's lead to 20-6. He kept the drive alive moments earlier by picking up a first down on fourth-and-5.
A good chunk of Pleasant Hill’s offense came on its scoring drive in the third. The Roosters offense seemed like it might click after Dalton Bach hit Gray on a 5-yard TD pass, but Grain Valley’s defense forced turnovers on their next two possessions.
“Our defensive coordinator, Pete Carpino, and our whole defensive staff does a great job,” Allie said. “They were all ready to play against a passing opponent. They had a great game plan and we just executed. We made the plays when we had to make the plays.”
The Eagles offense also helped burn time off the clock in the fourth by going on a lengthy drive deep into Pleasant Hill territory that Collum kept alive with another first-down run on another fourth-and-5.
“The fourth-down runs were something that had to happen,” said Collum, who finished with 116 yards passing and 47 yards on the ground. “My offensive line gave me that push and we got through and got the yardage we needed.”
Added Allie: “I have to give it to our kids, when we needed first downs and needed to chew up clock they did a good job of doing that.”
Marquez paced Grain Valley (3-2, 1-0 MRVC West) with 63 yards rushing, but Collum noted the defense deserved all the praise.
“The defense really stepped up,” he said. “It’s nice to have confidence going in that if you don’t score on offense, your defense is going to be there to help you out in the long run.”