Grain Valley was coming into one of its most important games of the regular season Friday.
Not only are the Eagles fighting for a share of the Suburban White Conference title, they are trying to hang on to the top seed for the Class 5 District 7 postseason.
Raytown entered Friday’s game as the No. 2 seed in the district. Thanks to the help of a stout defense and stellar game from wide receiver Logan Pratt, Grain Valley put itself in the driver’s seat for a first-round bye and home field advantage for districts following a 21-14 victory at Moody Murry Memorial Field.
Next week, the Eagles will face off against Belton, who leaped Raytown for the No. 2 seed following a 42-28 win against William Chrisman. With a win next week, Grain Valley can clinch the No. 1 seed.
“The last four games have been really physical for us, so that bye is really important for us,” Grain Valley head coach David Allie said. “Having that No. 1 seed is important, but we have to take care of business against Belton.
“Offensively, they run the ball right at you and defensively, they have three really good linebackers from last year. We control our own destiny.”
His team also trails Fort Osage by one game in the conference standings as the Eagles (5-3) are 3-1 in league play and the Indians are 4-0. Next week, the Indians will play Chrisman.
A big reason for the Eagles' success this year has been the defense. It came up big once again as Grain Valley has held six of its eight opponents to 14 points or less. On Friday, the Eagles held Raytown to just 219 yards of total offense.
“Coming into the season, we knew we had some experience coming back up front and in the secondary,” Allie said, “but the linebackers were inexperienced. They’ve really shined and helped put our defense in the right position. They got some big tackles for loss when we needed them.”
The Eagles came up with two critical stops when it mattered most. Raytown was ahead 14-13 early in the fourth quarter and had the ball at the Grain Valley 32 after getting a first down on a pass on third-and-18.
Grain Valley’s defense tightened up and was aided by a pair of Raytown penalties. Senior middle linebacker Gage Forkner, who had a team high 8.5 tackles, sacked quarterback Nate Whitebear for a 12-yard loss. On third-and-30, defensive end Rhylan Alcanter brought down Whitebear in the backfield for another 7-yard loss, forcing a punt on fourth down.
“We had a heck of a night and played smash-mouth football,” said junior defensive end Jake Allen, who had 6.5 tackles, two of which went for a loss. ”It’s not about the size of the dog but the size of the fight in the dog.”
Pratt came through, running a similar fly route to his second-quarter touchdown on the go-ahead score with 5:28 left in the fourth. He beat a Raytown corner by a step and caught a perfectly thrown ball by quarterback Caleb Larson for a 41-yard score. Wide receiver Brek Sloan ran it in for a two-point conversion to put the Eagles ahead for good at 21-14.