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Grain Valley gets best foot forward at Park Hill South

By Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner

In a contest with more than 60 points scored, a well-placed juke move on a punt perhaps made all the difference in Grain Valley's football team picking up a 35-28 victory over Park Hill South on Friday at Preston Field at Park Hill High School.

The start of the fourth quarter saw Grain Valley go for it on fourth down and come up short. On the next drive, the Eagles struggled to get much offense going and were pinned deep in their own end, clinging to a 28-21 lead.

Parker Bosserman went back to punt and stood at around the 20-yard line.

The snap wasn’t perfect and Bosserman had to reach down to get it. By the time he looked up and prepared to kick, a Park Hill South defender jumped in the air to block the kick.

Instead, Bosserman jumped to his left, ran a few yards and got a punt off left-footed – a tricky feat for a usual right-footed punter. The ball ended up rolling to the 49-yard line.

“If you ever watched Parker Bosserman play, you know there some times he just does crazy things and you go, ‘Oh wow, how did that happen?” teammate and starting quarterback Cole Keller said. “That also comes with a few heart attacks and if you would’ve saw my reaction, it was having a heart attack on the sideline. 

“Parker and I are really close; we have played together since kindergarten and went to preschool together. Every game we have ever played, he is the dude that is Mr. Clutch. He does freaking things in high-pressure situations. That literally could’ve been the momentum swing for this game, and he held it together and got it off. It was magic.”

That magic led to a big swing of events that ultimately flipped the game in favor of Grain Valley, now 3-0 – the best start in at least the past decade according to MSHSAA records.

Park Hill South (1-2) was penalized for a blindside block on the return and instead of starting at the 49-yard line, the ball was moved back to the 34-yard line.

Then, on the next play, the snap sailed over Park Hill South quarterback Nathan Ricco’s head and rolled.

Grain Valley’s Jayden Jacobson ended up with the ball at the Panthers’ 17-yard line, the third turnover created by the Eagles. An earlier fumble recovery led to the first touchdown for Grain Valley, while another was Brayden Cary’s interception in the end zone to thwart a drive.

Two plays after Jacobson’s fumble recovery, Keller got the call and ran through Park Hill South’s defense for a 15-yard touchdown and a 35-21 lead.

The Panthers got a late score to pull within a touchdown, but the Eagles recovered an onside kick to seal the victory – the first meeting between the schools, though Grain Valley has only been in the Greater Kansas City Suburban Conference for three years.

A 1B story, if you will, would be the play of Keller. The 6-foot-5 signal caller didn’t need to pass the ball much, doing more damage with his feet.

He unofficially ran for 225 yards on 20 carries, the first time in his career he has eclipsed the 200-yard mark, and had three touchdowns in what was a back-and-forth contest.

“It felt good to go there and win the game and show them who we were and put us on the map,” Keller said.

After a slow start to the contest – scoreless through the first eight-plus minutes – there were three touchdowns in the final 2:30 of the first quarter. Keller had a 21-yard run on the Eagles’ first scoring drive, which was capped by Hunter Newsom’s 1-yard run on fourth down.

Park Hill South tied it with 1:01 left in the quarter on Ricco’s 54-yard pass to Gaige Warren. With less than 40 seconds left in the quarter, Keller took a keeper up the left sideline for a 66-yard touchdown.

Trailing 14-7 after a quarter, a big play helped the host Panthers tie the game. Ricco hit Mudia Reuben for a 45-yard pass on third-and-10, moving the ball to the 4-yard line. A play later, Warren ran in the tying score.

Keller’s second touchdown of the game was on a 1-yard keeper midway through the second, but on the play the ball was knocked free and picked up in the end zone by Park Hill South. Both sides celebrated, the Grain Valley players with arms lifted for a touchdown and Park Hill South players motioning a change of possession with their arms.

The officials converged and called a touchdown. That made it 21-14, and the lead expanded to 28-14 when Newsom scored on a 3-yard touchdown run.

Briggs Bartosh scored late in the third to pull the Panthers within 28-21. He added a 14-yard touchdown in the fourth that made it 35-28.

“This is a big boy win,” Grain Valley coach David Allie said. “They are a bigger school (Park Hill South was Class 5 last year) and in a bigger class. This year we may be in the same class, but it was definitely a solid victory for a smaller school.”