2020 Football Offensive Player of the Year: Keller overcomes injury to lead 10-2 Eagles, earn college scholarship

By Bill Althaus
bill.althaus@examiner.net
Grain Valley senior quarterback Cole Keller put a knee injury as a junior behind him and amassed more than 2,700 yards and 36 touchdowns for the 10-2 Eagles. He is The Examiner's 2020 Football Offensive Player of the Year.

When Cole Keller suffered a devastating knee injury that robbed him of his junior football and basketball seasons, the Grain Valley quarterback made a promise to himself and his team.

“I worked so hard in the offseason that I didn’t want to let anyone down in 2020,” said Keller, a senior who roared back with a vengeance to win The Examiner’s 2020 Football Offensive Player of the Year award.

“I wanted to come back better and stronger than ever. I finally got to play a few basketball games at the end of last year, and then COVID came around and we weren’t able to play baseball, so I pushed myself like I’ve never pushed myself before. And I can say I’m proud of the season we had and the role I played in it.”

Jumping up the Class 5, and playing in the Suburban Middle Six – up from the Small Six last season – Keller was 80 of 125 passing with 16 touchdowns and 1,408 yards. He was equally deadly on the ground, carrying the ball 139 times for 1,332 yards and 20 scores.

Cole Keller

He was named the Suburban Middle Six Offensive Player of the Year, he was the Eagles Offensive Player of the Year, a team captain, Class 5 all-state (as an athlete) and a Simone Award semifinalist while leading the Eagles to a 10-2 record and a Class 5 state quarterfinal appearance.

“I don’t think Cole drove the bus to any of our games,” Eagles coach David Allie quipped, “but he did everything else. He became a real leader on and off the field, and he did whatever we asked him to do.

“It’s special when you have a player like Cole who can beat you with his arm, his legs or his smarts. He was a complete player for us and I am so happy he is The Examiner’s Player of the Year. He deserves it.”

When notified of the award, Keller seemed stunned.

“Really? Me?” he asked. “The best thing about getting this award is that it lets me talk about my team and my coaches and Grain Valley High School.

“We’ve gone up to bigger classes the past couple of years and had a lot of success and that comes from great coaching and playing as a team. Winning this award was something I never really thought about because of all the great talent in the area.

“Last season was something I will never forget.”

That season led to The Examiner’s top honor and a scholarship to NCAA Division II Washburn University in Topeka, Kan.

“I was really struggling with where I wanted to go,” Keller said. “I had some D-I offers, but I would have still owed a ton of money after I graduated. I was kind of lost.

“Then I visited Washburn and felt like I’d found a new home. The coaches are great, the guys on the team I met are great, and they have a new $25 million facility that you have to see to believe. Just unbelievable.”

While he hoped to catch on with a college team and play either tight end or wide receiver, the Ichabods made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“You know Taysom Hill with New Orleans?” asked Keller, referring to the do-it-all back/tight end who is equally adept at passing, running and catching the ball. “Now, I’m not in any way comparing myself to him, but Washburn has talked to me about having that kind of role on the football team, and I love that! I mean, I love it so much.

“I might play a little quarterback, a little H-back, wide receiver, tight end. I can’t wait to get there to start studying the play book. This is like a dream come true for me.”

2020 Examiner All-Area Football

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

QB: Cole Keller, 6-4, 203, sr., Grain Valley — 80-125 passing, 1,408 yards, 16 TDs, 5 int.; 130 carries, 1,332 yards (10.2-yard average), 20 TDs rushing; All-Suburban Middle Six; Suburban Middle Six Offensive Player of the Year; all-district; MFCA Class 5 All-State third team (athlete); Missouri Media Class 5 All-State second team (athlete); Simone Award semifinalist (top player in metro area); 2020 Examiner Offensive Player of the Year.

RB: De'Andre Thomas, 5-8, 185, sr., Blue Springs — 164 carries, 1,025 yards (6.3-yard average), 11 TDs; 16 receptions, 198 yards (12.4-yard average); All-Suburban Big Eight; all-district.

RB: Jaxon Wyatt, 5-8, 170, jr., Grain Valley — 150 carries, 959 yards (6.4-yard average), 8 TDs rushing; all-district; All-Suburban Middle Six.

WR: Larenzo Fenner, 6-0, 160, soph., Fort Osage — 37 receptions, 593 yards (16-yard average), 6 TDs; 12 carries, 71 yards, 1 TD rushing; All-Suburban Middle Six; all-district; MFCA Class 5 All-State third team (kick returner).

WR: Xavier Loyd, 6-3, 180, sr., Blue Springs — 38 receptions, 526 yards (13.8-yard average), 9 TDs; All-Suburban Big Eight; all-district; committed to Kansas State (preferred walk-on)

WR: Logan Muckey, 6-1, 180, sr., Lee's Summit North — 35 receptions, 534 yards (15.3-yard average), 8 TDs; All-Suburban Big Eight; all-district; committed to Missouri (preferred walk-on).

OL: Jack Bailey, 6-2, 275, sr., Grain Valley — A top blocker for team with 2,895 rushing yards and 4.303 total yards; All-Suburban Middle Six; all-district; MFCA Class 5 All-State third team; Missouri Media Class 5 All-State second team.

OL: Zander Brinegar, 5-10, 224, jr., Oak Grove — A top blocker for team that averaged 300 rushing yards per game; MFCA Class 3 All-State second team; all-district; All-MRVC West on offense and defense.

OL: Cayden Green, 6-5, 288, soph., Lee's Summit North — A top blocker for team with 1,093 rushing yards and 3,186 total yards; all-district; All-Suburban Big Eight; interest from several NCAA Division I teams.

OL: Beau Stephens, 6-6, 310, sr., Blue Springs — A top blocker for team with 1,912 rushing yards and 3,516 total yards; 26 tackles, 8 TFL, 2 sacks on defense; All-Suburban Big Eight; all-district; MFCA Class 6 All-State first team; Missouri Media Class 6 All-State first team; Buck Buchanan Award finalist (top lineman or linebacker in metro area); signed with Iowa.

OL: Trevor Taylor, 6-0, 276, jr., Lee's Summit North — A top blocker for team with 1,093 rushing yards and 3,186 total yards; all-district; All-Suburban Big Eight.

All-purpose: Parker Bosserman, 5-10, 150, sr., Grain Valley — 35 receptions, 577 yards (16.4-yard average), 7 TDs; 38 carries, 236 yards, 1 TD rushing; averaged 16.8 yards on 11 kickoff returns; 38.1-yard punting average (6 punts inside 10-yard-line); All-Suburban Middle Six; all-district.

All-purpose: Arlandes Mitchell, 6-0, 177, sr., Van Horn — 99 carries, 953 yards, 10 TDs; 31 receptions, 412 yards (13.3-yard average), 6 TDs; averaged 33.3 yards on 21 kickoff returns; returned three kicks for TDs; more than 2,000 all-purpose yards; All-Crossroads Conference; all-district; MFCA Class 4 All-State second team (kick returner).

K: Max Ellis, 6-1, 160, soph., St. Michael the Archangel — 2-2 field goals, 29-30 PATs (school record extra points for a season), 9 touchbacks.

DEFENSE

DL: Aden Birdwell, 6-4, 240, sr., Blue Springs South — 43 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sack, 8 QB hurries, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass deflection; MFCA Class 6 All-State second team, Missouri Media Class 6 All-State second team, all-district; All-Suburban Big Eight; signed with Central Missouri.

DL: Adrien Block, 6-3, 220, sr., Lee's Summit North — 68 tackles (41 solo), 18 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 23 QB hurries; all-district; All-Suburban Big Eight.

DL: Donovan McBride, 6-4, 280, sr., Grain Valley — 47 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 1 fumble recovery; All-Suburban Middle Six; all-district; MFCA Class 5 All-State third team; Missouri Media Class 5 All-State second team; committed to Murray State.

DL: Jason Skivers, 6-3, 240, sr., Van Horn — 64 tackles (39 solo), 14 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries; All-Crossroads Conference; Crossroads Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year; all-district; MFCA Class 4 All-State third team; committed to Missouri (preferred walk-on).

DL: Beau Stephens, 6-6, 310, sr., Blue Springs — 26 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, MFCA Class 6 All-State first team (offensive line), Missouri Media Class 6 All-State first team, all-district, All-Suburban Big Eight; Buck Buchanan Award finalist (top lineman or linebacker in metro area); signed with Iowa.

LB: David Jacquez, 6-0, 185, jr., Fort Osage — 121 tackles (91 solo), 13 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 blocked kicks; All-Suburban Middle Six; all-district; MFCA Class 5 All-State third team.

LB: Hunter Newsom, 5-11, 195, sr., Grain Valley — 173 tackles (75 solo), 18.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 4 QB hurrries, 1 interception; All-Suburban Middle Six; Suburban Middle Six Defensive Player of the Year; all-district; MFCA Class 5 All-State first team; Missouri Media Class 5 All-State first team; Buck Buchanan Award semifinalist (top lineman or linebacker in metro area); 2020 Examiner Defensive Player of the Year.

LB: Carson Willich, 6-1, 195, jr., Blue Springs — 48 tackles (34 solo), 12 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble; all-district; All-Suburban Big Eight.

DB: Silas Hicks, 5-10, 160, sr., Oak Grove — 31 tackles, 6 interceptions, 3 pass breakups; MFCA Class 3 All-State second team; all-district; All-MRVC West.

DB: Dewuan Mack, 6-0, 180, jr., Lee's Summit North — 39 tackles (32 solo), 1 tackle for loss, 4 interceptions (one returned for TD), 8 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, 3 fumble recoveries (one recovered for TD); All-Suburban Big Eight; all-district; committed to Kansas.

DB: Chris Rhodes, 6-0, 185, sr., Truman — 39 tackles (29 solo), 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception, 6 pass breakups, allowed only 3 completions for 22 yards all season, 18% completion rate; All-Suburban Middle Six; all-district; signed with South Dakota State.

P/all-purpose: Luke Fellers, 6-5, 202, sr., Blue Springs South — 30 punt, 37.6-yard average, 5 punts inside 20; All-Suburban Big Eight.

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

QB: Sean Mitchell, 6-2, 180, sr., Van Horn

RB: Ellis Edwards, 5-10, 165, jr., St. Michael the Archangel

RB: Jayden Steele, 5-10, 190, sr., Blue Springs South

WR: Devin Blaney, 5-10, 170, jr., Lee's Summit North

WR: Michael Haggerty, 6-4, 195, jr., St. Michael the Archangel

WR: Isaac Harkness, 6-2, 180, sr., Blue Springs

TE: Gracen Bell, 6-7, 235, jr., Lee's Summit North

OL: Alex Atagi, 6-4, 215, sr., William Chrisman

OL: Ben Bryan, 6-0, 222, sr., Blue Springs South

OL: Steven Gabb, 6-1, 290, jr., Fort Osage

OL: Landen Hinton, 5-11, 240, sr., Grain Valley

OL: Armand Membou, 6-4, 280, jr., Lee’s Summit North

OL: Devron Rivera, 6-4, 375, sr., Truman

K: Ricardo Delgado, 6-0, 164, sr., Oak Grove

DEFENSE

DL: Caleb Berry, 6-2, 245, sr., St. Michael the Archangel

DL: Ike Ezeogu, 6-6, 230, jr., Blue Springs

DL: T'Andre Forbush, 6-3, 245, sr., Blue Springs

DL: Edgar Hunley, 6-1, 280, sr., Lee's Summit North

DL: Josh McCoy, 5-10, 210, sr., Grain Valley

DL: Jaden McGhee, 6-4, 225, jr., Lee's Summit North

LB: Aaron Barnhill, 6-0, 205, sr., Lee’s Summit North

LB: Owen Cole, 5-11, 175, jr., Lee’s Summit North

LB: Conner Foreman, 6-0, 195, sr., Blue Springs

LB: Zach Kirk, 5-9, 185, sr., Grain Valley

LB: Quincy Potts, 6-2, 205, sr., Truman

LB: Ethan Watson, 6-0, 200, sr., Blue Springs South

DB: Isaiah Frost, 5-11, 192, sr., Blue Springs South

DB: Keagan Hart, 5-10, 150, soph., Grain Valley

DB/LB: Cameron Mickelson, 6-4, 180, sr., Grain Valley

DB: Blake Williams, 5-11, 155, sr., Fort Osage

P: Ben Nettleton, 6-2, 185, sr., Fort Osage

HONORABLE MENTION

Blue Springs: Patrick Maloney, 5-11, 200, sr., QB; Dalesean Staley, 6-1, 200, jr., WR/LB; Lamana Tapusoa, 5-11, 195, soph., RB; Kevin Roberson, 5-10, 180, sr., DB; Blue Springs South: Joe Ward, 6-1, 182, sr., LB; Fort Osage: Greg Menne, 6-2, 195, soph., QB; Will Snodgrass, 6-2, 195, sr., WR; Grain Valley: Quincy Jones, 6-1, 280, sr., DL; Donovan McBride, 6-4, 280, sr., OL; Parker Stone, 6-4, 175, sr., TE; Lee’s Summit North: Quincey Baker, 5-8, 175, soph., RB; Tre Baker, 6-0, 190, jr., QB; Dre Beasley, 5-10, 164, soph., DB; DayInn Davis, 6-3, 270, jr., OL; Mike Dolman, 6-2, 330, jr., DL; Alphonso Hodge, 5-9, 170, jr., DB; Isaiah Mims, 5-7, 165, sr., RB; Randall Ward, 6-1, 215, soph., LB; Javion Watson, 5-10, 200, jr., LB; Kade Williams, 6-0, 180, soph., DB; Oak Grove: Jacob Andell, 5-10, 164, sr., LB/RB; Ricardo Delgado, 6-0, 164, sr., K; Carson Smith, 6-0, 173, jr., LB; St. Michael the Archangel: Zach Berry, 6-1, 215, soph., OL; Sumyl Hayes-Dunnell, 5-11, 165, sr., DB; Joe Kimbrough, 5-9, 175, sr., LB; Dillon Zaun, 5-10, 160, jr., QB; Truman: Jayson Boatright, 5-11, 215, sr., LB; Dmitri Smith, 5-10, 185, sr., RB; Van Horn: David Ballard, 5-10, 285, sr., OL; Lamonte Belshe, 5-8, 155, fresh., RB; Mason Igou, 6-0, 285, soph., OL; Treyvion Paige, 6-1, 180, sr., LB; Da'Marcus Penson, 5-8, 165, soph., WR; William Chrisman: Dayne Herl, 6-4, 185, jr., QB; Lance Nauer, 5-8, 185, fresh., LB; Kameron Thompson, 5-9, 175, jr., RB; Mason Walters, 5-10, 205, sr., LB.