After an 0-2 start, the Grain Valley football team is starting to turn its season around, thanks in large part to the defense.
Following last week’s win, in which the Eagles held Boonville to seven points, they came back with a resounding encore, shutting out conference rival Pleasant Hill 34-0 Friday at home.
“We’ve really turned up the intensity in practice,” Eagles defensive end Jacob Miller said of the team's turnaround. “We’re improving on offense and defense and we’re starting to click.”
It was Grain Valley’s first shutout since 2010, which also came against the Roosters. So, how dominant was the Eagles' defense?
It forced three turnovers and sacked Pleasant Hill quarterback Cameron Haws seven times, led by Cody Richardson and Miller with 1.5 apiece. In addition, Grain Valley (3-2, 1-0 in the Missouri River Valley Conference) held the Roosters to just 143 yards of total offense and didn't allow them to reach the red zone until the 8:53 mark in the fourth quarter.
“We basically had the mentality to go for it and not let up,” Miller said. “Whether it is 0-0 or 55-0, we just want to go for it the whole time. We got a push all night and got linebacker support and that's all that mattered.”
Although it didn’t show on the stat sheet (1 tackle, 0.5 for loss) Dusty Mitchell had a huge hand in the Eagles’ defensive success. The junior forced Haws into a handful of muffed snaps by consistently bullying his way though the middle of the Roosters' offensive line and getting his hands on the signal caller.
“He's a fire plug,” Eagles coach David Allie said of Mitchell. “He was really getting some penetration tonight. We have a crab scheme with him sometimes. He was able to grab the quarterback’s ankles and cause some fits. He gets low. He’s also a wrestler for our school and understands leverage.”
Grain Valley wasn’t a slouch on the other side of the ball either. The offense, usually spearheaded by running back Zack Ehlen, was led this time by quarterback Kellen Holland who completed 7 of 8 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried l nine times for 45 yards and a score.