Seth Dankenbring, the Grain Valley High School senior linebacker, has a safe house.
And it’s not what you might be thinking.
“Our defensive line is my safe house,” said Dankenbring, who leads the Eagles with 76 tackles. “I know they always have my back. After a running back works so hard to get through our line, all any of us have to do is go wrap them up. Our defensive line does most of the hard work.”
When that comment was relayed to defensive tackle Steele Blackmon he grinned.
“Seth is our security blanket,” said Blackmon, who has 22.5 tackes and one sack, “because we know we can count on him and the other linebackers or guys in the secondary to take care of business if someone gets past us.
“What it all adds up to is accountability. We hold each other accountable. That’s what family members do, and on this team we’re all family.”
And that Eagles family travels to Platte County Friday where they will meet the Pirates in a 7 p.m. Class 4 state quarterfinal game that will be broadcast live on KCWJ (1030 AM).
“It’s all about accountability with the guys on this team,” Eagles defensive coordinator Pete Carpino said. “It’s pretty cool that Seth appreciates what the line means to him and the other guys, and the line appreciates what Seth and the other guys do to support them. I think that’s one reason for our success this season – they’re very good players and even greater kids.”
Joining Blackmon on the defensive line are tackles Donovan McBride (25.5 tackles, 2 sacks), Chance Pittman (18 tackles, 2 sacks) and Quincy Jones (5.5 tackles, 1 sack) and defensive ends Michael Sanchez (20 tackles) and Josh McCoy (7.5 tackles and 1.5 sacks).
“We’ve had some ups and downs this season,” said McBride, with one “down” being an 18-17 loss to Platte County in the regular season in whcih the Pirates scored 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. “But one of the strengths of this team has been coming back stronger following those setbacks.
“This year, the defense and offense have really fed off each other. We make a big play and give our offense the ball and they reward us with a touchdown. It’s been that way all season. I’ve never been on a closer team than this one. It’s been a great season.”
The love of family, competitive spirit and drive all begins and ends with coach David Allie, the players said.
“We love Coach,” Blackmon said. “We love Coach (Erik) Stone (the defensive line coach) and Coach Carp – all our coaches. They teach us how to play the game the right way. We’d do anything for them, because we know they’d do anything for us.
“And we better keep working hard, because no one works harder than our coaches.”
Allie talks with reverence about his defensive line.
“In many ways they have exceeded our expectations,” Allie said. “We have our starters – Steele, Donovan, Chance and Michael – and when a starter needs a break, we bring in Josh and Quincy and don’t miss a beat.
“Not many teams our size – or schools our size – have that type of depth. They are warriors, they are great leaders and they are great kids, and that’s the best part of coaching them.”