In a contest full of lead changes and high-powered offenses, one defense stand became critical for Grain Valley.
For the most part, the Eagles defense had no answer for Cooper Burton, St. Joseph Benton’s quarterback, but the defense buckled down and contained the Division-I bound athlete late in a 39-36 home victory Friday night.
The contest started with touchdowns on five of the first six combined drives and the scoring pace didn’t let up in the second half.
The Eagles (2-0) scored on each of their second-half drives, but needed a late defensive stop to preserve the second win against the Cardinals (0-2) during the past six years.
This marked the fourth game between the two that was decided by a touchdown or less.
“We knew it would be a close game, the past three years, every game has been a close game,” Grain Valley defensive lineman Kevin Carpio said. “I remember two years they came here and we lost by a touchdown. That was all the motivation we needed.”
Grain Valley trailed 21-20 at halftime, but regained the lead for the final time on Ethan Grasher’s 46-yard touchdown with 8:10 left. Up 39-36 at that point, the Eagles left plenty of time on the clock for Benton and Cooper, who committed to Illinois State.
The Cardinals went from their 21-yard line to the Eagles’ 42-yard line in seven plays, notching three first downs in that series.
Curtis Weston’s first-down run moved Benton to the Grain Valley 37 with less than four minutes to play, but the Cardinals didn’t gain another yard.
Grain Valley stopped running back Flint Brennen for a 2-yard loss and Burton then was stopped for a loss and lost four yards on sack by Carpio.
On fourth-and-14 from the Grain Valley 41, an incomplete pass turned out to be Benton’s last shot at a final comeback.
“The defense got it done when they had to get it done,” Grain Valley coach David Allie said. “What a player (Cooper Burton). You know there is no answer for that, he is such a great athlete. You saw him run down the field and it didn’t matter. We weren’t going to catch him. He got a Division-I scholarship and that is why.”