Eagles ready for quarterfinal rematch with Pirates
At this time last year, Grain Valley football coach David Allie and Bill Utz, his counterpart from Platte County, met at midfield before their Class 4 state quarterfinal game.
"I told Coach Utz we should make this an annual event, and he agreed," Allie said, grinning.
Well, the Eagles and Pirates both moved up from Class 4 to Class 5 and they will play at 7 p.m. Friday in Platte County to see who advances to the state semifinals next week.
"Isn't that something, we're both in Class 4 last year and this year we're in Class 5 and we're playing to keep our seasons alive," Allie said as his Eagles stopped conference rival Raytown 42-7 last week to earn a chance for redemption against the 10-1 Pirates.
Platte County used a 21-point third quarter last year to end the Eagles season with a 38-21 victory that still haunts the players who were part of that 2019 Grain Valley team.
"It still hurts," said all-state linebacker Hunter Newsom, who had 16 tackles in last week's mercy rule win over the Blue Jays. "I think about that game every day. We're not going to Platte County for revenge, we're going for redemption. We are focused and ready to go. I think everyone saw last week how our coaches had us prepared for anything Raytown threw at us, and that's the same approach we're taking Friday."
Senior quarterback Cole Keller – who has been outstanding this season passing (1,141 yards and 19 touchdowns) and running (1,079 yards and 13 TDs with a 176.2 QB rating) – was on the sidelines last year with a season-ending knee injury.
"Since I missed the game last year, you know how excited I am," Keller said. "We're all excited. We can't wait for Friday. No one wants this season to end – especially the seniors. I want to keep on playing, and so does everyone else."
The Eagles (10-1, including a district forfeit win) have been a balanced team this year, scoring 347 points (34.7 a game), while allowing 122 (12.2) per game in the 10 games played.
"That's a credit to our kids and our coaches," Allie said. "We all want to win this game. And the guys on our staff have been putting in a lot of extra hours to get our guys ready. What Pete (Carpino, defensive coordinator) and his staff did to get our guys ready for Raytown was pretty amazing. They had that huge front line and all those great athletes confused with the stem (shift) our D-linemen did before the snap.
"They didn't know who to block, and it really affected their offense."
The Blue Jays ran for 455 yards in a 21-14 regular-season win over the Eagles. Last Friday they ran for 125 and one touchdown.
"Coach Carpino and his staff had us ready for anything," said defensive end Josh McCoy, who is tied with Newsom for the team lead with seven sacks, "and we're going to be ready for anything Friday."
When asked about the revenge factor, Allie laughed.
"You've got a lot of 17- and 18-year-old guys out there and I know they're still thinking about last year," Allie said, "but we don't want revenge. We want a win. And our guys are as focused as they've ever been."