After making some good fortune for itself in the first half, Grain Valley’s football team fashioned perhaps its best all-around game Friday against visiting Excelsior Springs.
Twice, with the defense backed up within spitting distance of the goal line, the Eagles forced a fumble for a turnover, leading to a 6-0 halftime edge. The offense then got rolling in the second half, and Eagles claimed a 29-6 win that clinched at least a share of the Missouri River Valley West title.
Grain Valley (5-3 overall) takes a 3-1 conference mark into next week’s regular season finale against Oak Grove, with every other team either at 2-2 or 1-3.
“Yeah, definitely (our most complete game),” said Grain Valley senior linebacker Cody Richardson, who had at least three stops behind the line of scrimmage. “That’s the most we’ve scored all year, and we were hoping for the shutout, but that’s OK.”
Richardson forced the second Excelsior Springs (5-3, 2-2) fumble, crunching quarterback Peyton Soria as he tried to make a handoff from the 5-yard line. Taylor Whittle recovered that loose ball.
Back in the first quarter, the Tigers returned the opening kickoff to the Grain Valley 43 and drove down to the 3. On second-and-goal, Grain Valley stonewalled Excelsior back C.J. Rhodes, then ripped the ball away for a key turnover.
“I think it was me,” Richardson said. “But I’ll have to watch the tape.”
All told, the Eagles limited the Tigers to 177 yards on the ground and Soria to 8-of-19 passing for 68 yards.
“Our defensive line got it done,” Richardson said. “We hit it hard in practice, preparing for the veer, and we’d seen it (two weeks ago) against Harrisonville.
“Coming in, they’re doing a great job,” Grain Valley coach David Allie said of the Excelsior Springs. “Coach (Mark) Faubion has done a great job turning around the program. Our defensive staff put together a great game plan to stop their run.”
After forcing a first-quarter punt, Grain Valley took its second possession and drive 69 yards in 10 plays for its first score. Richardson barrelled through for a 6-yard score at the 10:49 mark of the second.
The Eagles scored on their first two possessions of the second half.
On second-and-24 from the Excelsior 31, Tate Collum rolled left and heaved a touchdown pass to Ethan Macoubrie, who fought off interference by a defensive back to make the catch for a 12-0 lead.
“I was looking the other way but I got blitzed,” Collum said of the touchdown, “and then I saw (Macoubrie) had the corner beat, so I just threw it as far as I could.”
A quick three-and-out gave Grain Valley the ball just ahead of midfield, and it cashed in six plays later when Collum rolled left and picked up a block on his way to a 17-yard TD run.
“We just stuck to the basics today – didn’t try to do anything really special,” said Collum, who finished 8-of-13 passing for 130 yards and racked up 118 yards on 11 carries. Macoubrie (4 catches, 66 yards) was his top target.
Caleb Krell, back after missing a couple games due to injury, had 75 yards on 17 carries, and Noah Buseman (42 yards) also had a big contribution as the Eagles garnered 273 rushing yards.
Excelsior Springs scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, as Landon Seely’s 1-yard jaunt capped a 12-play drive. But Grain Valley responded with an 11-play drive to set up Nate Chaiprathum’s 27-yard field goal.
Following another defensive three-and-out, Collum danced and then galloped his way to a 54-yard touchdown run to clinch the victory.
“He’s a leader,” Allie said of his junior quarterback. “He runs the ball well and reads well.”
“Offensively we were able to run the ball. Forty-two (Krell), he came back and ran the ball tough. He hits the hole and run hard, but credit to our offensive line. They were aggressive, and we were able to get them with a couple of counter plays.
“Really, it was a complete game.”