During the regular season, mistakes can be dusted off, looked at as a way for a team to get better. Come playoff time, those mistakes become gigantic potholes that can derail a team and be the difference between going home or living to play another day.
Grain Valley had trouble getting out of its own way Friday night, and the benefactor was Grandview. The Eagles turned the ball over four times in a 27-20 district-opening loss to the Bulldogs.
“We got lucky with a few loose balls,” Grandview head coach Jeremie Picard admitted afterward.
It was an all-too-familiar sight for Grain Valley head coach David Allie.
“That’s the story of our year,” he said. “We shoot ourselves in the foot. We get in our own way. And the big thing was they capitalized on our mistakes, and we didn’t on the ones we got.”
The Bulldogs scored 13 points off two first-half Eagle turnovers, with the second coming in the final minute of the half. After Roderick Smith scored on a 7-yard run with 43 seconds left in the half to make it 14-7 Grandview, the Eagles had enough time and timeouts to try and put together a quick drive. Grandview’s Jay’Len Thompson quickly thwarted those plans, batting down a backwards pass and recovering the ball for a turnover.
After three plays gained only 1 yard, Bulldog quarterback Eli Beard heaved a pass to the end zone on fourth-and-9 that Harold Trainer brought down for a 24-yard touchdown with just 5 seconds remaining. In the span of less than a minute, Grandview turned a 7-6 deficit into a 21-7 lead.
“That was huge,” Beard said of the touchdown. “Harold is a playmaker. You have to take a shot when you get it.”
Added Picard: “That was a massive momentum swing.”
The Eagles didn’t go quietly, quickly scoring a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter. Quarterback Cole Keller ran one in from 2 yards out before catching the second score, a wide receiver pass from Trent Flake for a 40-yard touchdown. A missed extra point after that score made it 21-20, Bulldogs.
From there the defenses started to take over, but once again mistakes cost the Eagles. Their defense forced three straight punts with the score still at 21-20, but on two of those punts they coughed the ball up right back to Grandview. On the second one, with less than 2 minutes to play and the Bulldogs looking to run out the clock, they caught Grain Valley off guard and connected on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Beard to Trainer for a 27-20 lead.
“I have to give credit to the coaches for seeing stuff,” Picard said. “We were running a lot of screens and they noticed that their safety was coming down quick. It was an awkward position to call that play but I’ll take that shot with No. 12 (Trainer)."
Grandview improved to 5-5 and will travel to Warrensburg next Friday, while Grain Valley finished the season 5-5.
“We had a great group of leaders,” Allie said. “The three words they wanted to be known for was physical, heart and family. You could see clearly that is what they are known for. They never gave up.”