When Savannah scored on its opening drive two weeks ago in Grain Valley’s season opener, Eagles coach David Allie knew his team needed to get on the scoreboard.
Sophomore quarterback Cole Keller found junior wide receiver Gavin Oyler on a 43-yard scoring strike moments after the Savannah score. That led to a 34-point run and a convincing 34-6 victory.
Oyler finished with four receptions for 103 yards, but the best was yet to come.
In the highly anticipated first Suburban Small Seven matchup – the Eagles’ home opener against Grandview last Friday – Keller and Oyler put on a show.
Oyler made one of those had-to-see-it-to-believe-it fingertip receptions for the go-ahead touchdown in a 30-20 victory.
Oyler and Keller hooked up for seven completions, good for 115 yards and two scores. For good measure, the slot back added a rushing touchdown and 38 yards on the ground.
Allie said Oyler leads all Eastern Jackson County receivers with 218 yards and is second, by two yards, of leading the entire metro area in total yards.
“We have a lot of weapons, a lot of great players in our offensive scheme, but right now Gavin is our go-to guy,” said Allie, who will take his 2-0 Eagles to Smithville Friday night for their second venture in Suburban Conference action.
“He really doesn’t touch the ball that much, because we attack what the opposing defenses give us. For instance, he had 12 touches in the Grandview game and had three touchdowns. That’s what a go-to player does for his team.”
It is no surprise to anyone in the Grain Valley locker room what Oyler and Keller have accomplished in the early part of what promises to be a memorable and historic season – as they jumped from dominating the Missouri River Valley West Conference to residence in the larger Suburban Conference.
“We’re all excited about moving up (in size) to the Suburban Conference,” said Oyler, a junior who could give the Eagles a big target for two years, as he stands 6-foot-2 and checks in at 185 pounds. “But I think a lot of people thought we’d struggle this year.
“We didn’t – the guys on the team, the coaches, the people associated with the team – so we went into the season with something to prove.
“Winning the first game at Savannah was big, but winning our first Suburban game at home was huge! We have the best fans – and we don’t blame them for wondering how we would do in a bigger conference.
“But no one saw us in the weight room at 6 a.m. every day this summer. They don’t know how many hours after practice that Cole threw to all of us receivers. We want to give our fans something to cheer about on Friday nights, but it’s the work you do in the summer and on other days of the week that make Friday nights special.”
If you want to see Allie smile, ask him about Oyler and Keller, who is just a sophomore.
“Yeah, how about that,” he said, cracking into a huge grin. “What coach wouldn’t want to have those two guys for two years. They’re both young, especially Cole, and he already looks like a seasoned veteran out there.
“He was on varsity last year and paid a lot of attention to Tate (Collum, who has walked on at Missouri Western), how he handled himself in games and at practice. We knew he was going to be a very good quarterback, but I don’t know if any of us expected it to come this early in the season.”
Keller is Oyler’s biggest fan, and vice versa. One is yin to the other’s yang.
“It’s like we know what each other is thinking,” Oyler said. “If he throws me the ball, I’m going to catch it.”
As evidenced by that remarkable fingertip reception against the Bulldogs.
“I thought it was overthrown, to be honest with you,” Allie said, “and Gavin runs under it and catches it. It was quite a throw and quite a catch at a big time of the game.”
Added Keller: “If I throw the ball to Gavin, I know he’s going to catch it. He and our other receivers – Parker Bosserman and Nick Brown – we all worked extra this summer. We wanted to be ready from the opening game.
“We’re 2-0, but that doesn’t mean anything Friday night. We have to keep it going to get another big win at Smithville. We’re taking it one day at a time, and we’ll see what happens.”