Eagles soar to first win

Kyle Palmer/PrepsKC

By Kyle Palmer PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 5, 2015 - 7:48 AM

Turnovers and penalties doomed Grandview’s chance at a third straight victory to start the season. Meanwhile, Grain Valley senior Zack Ehlen scored in three times in three different ways to lead the Eagles to their first victory of the year 35-22 Friday at Grandview High School.

Ehlen rushed for a touchdown, caught another score, and returned an interception for a pick-six late in the fourth quarter. That last touchdown sealed the victory for the Eagles. Overall, Grain Valley converted five Grandview turnovers into 27 points.  

“The theme for the week was ‘Believe,’” said Grain Valley coach David Allie. “We had done some things well in our first two games, we just needed to get a win. And this was against a good team, fast and huge. We knew we had our work cut out for us.”

Grandview made a move late, scoring three times in the final 15 minutes. But the Bulldogs’ earlier miscues proved too much to overcome.  

“I loved the way we finished,” Grandview assistant coach Wayne Chambers said. “But we’d never been down this year, and I think we tried to force things once we got down early. That’s something we need to work on: playing a whole game.”

A scoreless game turned Grain Valley’s way late in the second quarter, when senior defensive back Nate Vanderpool intercepted a pass from Grandview’s Collier. Grain Valley took that turnover and marched 56 yards for the game’s first score, a 13 yard scamper by Ehlen.

“All credit to the offensive line there,” said Ehlen. “We adjusted after the first quarter and they started opening up bigger holes. It was a pretty easy score because they blocked for me so well.”

With less than 30 seconds left in the first half, Collier threw another interception, this time to senior Triston Hillyard. Grain Valley took over at their own 46 yard line with 20 seconds to play before the break.

Instead of play conservative, Holland used play-action and found senior wide receiver Jake Hennrich sprinting down the left sideline. Hennrich bobbled the pass for a few steps but brought it in just as he crossed the goal line.

The quick score shocked the home crowd into temporary silence. Grain Valley led 14-0 at the half.

“Definitely hit a few divots before half,” said Chambers. “But we can build off what we did later.”

Looking to take back momentum after the break, Grandview continued to scuffle. Senior running back Ja’Kori Bell fumbled on the Bulldogs’ first possession and Vanderpool recovered for Grain Valley.

Moments later, senior Mason Smith barreled in from 8 yards out. Grain Valley missed the extra point but held a daunting 20-0 advantage.

Grain Valley added another score later in the third when Ehlen drew in a 13-yard pass from Holland for his second touchdown. A successful two-point conversion made it 28-0.

Allie said he planned to give his team the day off with the extended three-day weekend.

“We’ve earned it,” Allied said. “We were never out of the first two games and this gives us confidence going forward that we can play with really good teams.”

Early on, it looked as if Grandview would continue the offensive dominance they’d established by beating their first two opponents 96-6. After Grain Valley went three-and-out on its first possession, the Bulldogs put together a six-minute drive and got inside the Eagles’ five-yard line.

On second-and-goal Grain Valley cornerback Triston Hillyard jumped a slant route and intercepted a Collier pass in the end zone. It would be the first of five turnovers and a harbinger of things to come.

Grandview scored three times late. Bell rushed for two touchdowns and the Bulldogs added a final score with less than two minutes to go when Collier hit Ronny Johnson for a 17-yard strike. The ensuing on-side kick was recovered by Grain Valley and the Eagles’ fans in attendance let out raucous if somewhat relieved cheer.