Eagles' first-half surge not enough in quarterfinal loss

By Bill Althaus
Grain Valley receiver Logan Pratt, left, hauls in a 76-yard touchdown pass in front of Platte County defensive back Spencer Cupp (18) in Friday's Class 5 state quarterfinal in Platte City. Pratt scored on three receptions, including this one with one second left in the first half, to give the Eagles a 28-14 lead at the break. The host Pirates, though, rallied for a 31-28 victory/

PLATTE CITY, Mo. – The final game of this pandemic-plagued prep football season will be remembered as a game of two halves for the Grain Valley Eagles.

For one half, with quarterback Cole Keller running an explosive offense and Hunter Newsom riding shotgun on a defense that was tougher than a $2 steak, the Eagles led the Platte County Pirates 28-14 at halftime of their Class 5 state quarterfinal Friday.

Then, for the second year in a row, the 11-1 Pirates came out and dominated play in the third quarter, scoring two touchdowns to knot the score at 28-all. Then, kicker Cole Rhoden split the uprights on a 43-yard field goal with 5:44 left to give the Pirates a 31-28 victory.

Last year, in a Class 4 quarterfinal matchup, the Pirates scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter en route to a 38-21 victory over the Eagles.

Keller was sensational in the first half, running for a 52-yard touchdown and hooking up with Logan Pratt, who was playing in just his second game this season, for touchdown passes of 54, 23 and 76 yards to overcome the Pirates’ 14-0 first-quarter lead.

“We had it going the first half,” Keller said, “but they went all out and blitzed every play in the second half and we didn’t do anything. Kudos to them – they changed things up at halftime and it worked.

Grain Valley defensive back Brayden Terry (22) narrowly misses an interception on a pass intended for Platte County's Colby Rollins (2) in Friday's Class 5 state quarterfinal.

“But I am so proud of our guys, so proud to be a member of this team. The season didn’t end like we’d hoped, but at least we got to play and make it to the quarterfinals again this year.”

Coach David Allie – whose team added a district championship and a conference crown in addition to being one of the final eight teams – echoed his quarterback’s thoughts.

“You never have anything written, nothing prepared, to say to your guys after a loss like this,” Allie said after his team wrapped up a 10-2 campaign in its first season in Class 5.

“I told them in a season like this, when you’re dealing with a pandemic, we are so lucky to make it to Week 13. And we took care of business all season long – on and off the field – so we could make it to the quarterfinal game.

“Tonight, we played a great first half and they came out strong in the second half and we had a hard time handling their blitz. We have that rhino (three-back) set, but even with three guys back there they were getting to Cole so quickly he didn’t have time to do much.

“And it hurts, it really hurts to see our season end like this, but that is a very good Platte County team and we wish them luck the rest of the season.”

Grain Valley running back Hunter Newsom (25) breaks Platte County tackles during Friday's Class 5 state quarterfinal. The Eagles grabbed a 28-14 halftime lead but couldn't hold off the Pirates in a 31-28 season-ending loss.

Pirates quarterback Christopher Ruhnke completed 23 of 43 passes for all four Platte County touchdowns, 328 yards and one interception to Parker Bosserman.

Ruhnke hit Carter Salzman for a 15-yard score at 7:53 of the third period, then connected with Colby Rollins for a 41-yard touchdown to knot the score at 28-all, setting up the fourth-quarter game-winning field goal.

“This one hurts,” said senior center/nose tackle Donovan McBride, who recalled his emotions following last season’s loss when he was a junior. “This one hurts more because it’s the last time I’ll wear a Grain Valley jersey and play with my brothers. But I hope to keep playing the game I love and the sun will come up tomorrow, but it’s still tough – really tough.”

Down 14-0, Pratt and Keller led the first-half comeback. They hooked up for the 54-yard touchdown pass with 2:56 left in the first quarter to cut the deficit in half after Austin Schmitt’s extra point kick.

Grain Valley receiver Logan Pratt celebrates in the end zone after one of his three first-half touchdown receptions from Cole Keller in Friday's Class 5 state quarterfinal at Platte County. The Eagles grabbed a 28-14 halftime lead but couldn't stave off the Pirates in a 31-28 loss.

On their next possession, Keller busted off a 52-yard run to tie it on the first play of the second quarter.

Keller and Pratt hooked up for a 23-yard touchdown with 3:02 left in the half, and got the ball back just before halftime.

Pratt, who had missed most of the season with an injury, hauled in Keller’s bomb on a dead sprint and scored a 76-yard touchdown with just one second left in the half to make it 28-14 at halftime.

But Platte County capitalized on an interception and two lost fumbles by the Eagles to rally in the second half.

Platte County defender Trevor Scott punches the ball out of the grasp of Grain Valley quarterback Cole Keller (1) in Friday's Class 5 state quarterfinal. Platte County forced three turnovers and rallied for a 31-28 win.

Keller finished with 229 yards passing, completing 12 of 18 attempts with three TDs and one interception. He also rushed for 91 yards and a score on 16 carries.

Grain Valley limited Platte County to just 22 yards rushing on 22 carries, and had five sacks, including two by Josh McCoy, but couldn’t hold off Ruhnke and the Pirates’ passing attack. Rollins finished with 105 yards receiving on five receptions to lead Platte County (11-1), which faces Webb City in a state semifinal on Nov. 28. The Pirates lost 48-0 to Webb City in the Class 4 state championship game last season.