Eagles ready to return to field

Grain Valley looks to avenge earlier loss to Raytown in district title game

By Bill Althaus
Grain Valley senior quarterback Cole Keller breaks free on a run against Truman earlier this season. Keller and the Eagles have had two weeks off - one for a bye and one for a COVID-19 forfeit - heading into Friday's Class 5 District 7 championship against Raytown, which handed them their only loss of the season so far.

Sure, having two weeks off helped his team get rested.

But Grain Valley football coach David Allie wasn’t too keen about having his team not play since a 22-0 win over Belton in its regular season finale on Oct. 23.

Now the Eagles will get to play the only team that has beat them this season in the Class 5 District 7 championship with a state quarterfinal berth on the line Friday at Moody Murry Memorial Field.

The top-seeded Eagles play host to Suburban Middle Six Conference opponent Raytown in a 7 p.m. marquee matchup that has fans buzzing in both communities.

“You can feel the excitement here in Grain Valley,” said Eagles football coach David Allie, whose 8-1 Eagles’ lone loss this season was a 21-14 setback to the Blue Jays on the last play of the game at Ted Chittwood Stadium on Oct. 16.

“And you can certainly feel the excitement here at the high school. This has been such a crazy year, with the COVID and all that – and like we’ve been telling our guys, every game is a blessing.”

The two-week layoff came as a result of an opening-week bye and a forfeit win because William Chrisman had to cancel the district semifinal due to COVID-19 precautions.

“Now, heading into a big game like this, you don’t want to have two weeks off,” Allie said. “One week off was great. We had some guys who were banged up and they needed the break.

“But you don’t want two weeks off. But last week, we found out we weren’t playing on Thursday, so the guys got in a great week of practice and it didn’t take away from their intensity at practice. We had a great week of practice and we’ve had another great week of practice this week.”

The Blue Jays (8-3) enter Friday’s game coming off a 14-10 victory over Belton, another conference opponent the Eagles blanked in the last game of the regular season.

“Now’s the time you just go out and play, knowing if you lose, your season is over,” said all-conference senior lineman Donovan McBride. “Back in the summer, when none of us knew if we were going to be able to play, we all talked about making the most out of every game.

“And we were able to do that. We talked about how every game was like a championship game, because it could be our last. Well, Friday night, if we lose, it is our last game. And I know I can speak for all the seniors on the team and we’re not ready to play our last game.”

Neither is senior quarterback Cole Keller, whose arm and legs have played a key role in the Eagles’ success.

The Eagles will need to stop Raytown star running back Zhamari Gary, who bashed them for 255 yards on 32 carries and scored the winning touchdown on Oct. 16 with just 4.9 seconds left.

“We’re all so excited,” Keller said. “They’re a great team, and it should be a great game.”