Valor Christian football coach Rod Sherman sounded a little like a visionary on Nov. 17 after Grandview knocked the top-seeded and previously unbeaten Eagles out of the Class 5A state playoffs.
Grandview scored 28 unanswered points after host Valor grabbed an early 10-0 lead and advanced to the semifinals with a 28-16 victory on a cold, rainy night.
The quarterfinal setback — the Eagles’ only loss of the season — means Valor will not be playing in a state championship game for the first time in eight seasons. The two-time defending 5A state champion Eagles, who captured seven state titles over three classifications since 2009, have now lost only twice in the playoffs in that time.
“We have high expectations around here athletically and the football program has high expectations because we’ve had success,” Sherman said. “But it’s OK. Life is going to go on. We are going to rally up and put a team on the field next year that is a good as it can be. I hope when the young men look back they will remember the lessons learned over the course of this year.
“We don’t make any excuses. Grandview played in the same weather and put up 28 points. Give them credit. That’s the most points we’ve given up all year. Grandview outplayed us. They just executed a lot better. They were more physical up front. I thought they beat us on the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense.”
Grandview lost two fumbles and Valor one on the first three possessions of the game before the teams adjusted to the conditions.
The Eagles jumped to a 10-0 lead but long non-scoring runs of 71 and 43 yards by Grandview junior Jordan Billingsley ignited the Wolves, who assumed a 14-10 halftime lead — which it increased to 28-10 in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah that was a good spark for them that they needed, but all in all we should have bounced back harder and faster,” said senior linebacker Matthew Thibault. “We just didn’t.”
“We had some momentum early to be up two scores and for them to really gash us with a couple long runs and get a little bit of a lead that gave them momentum and confidence,” he said.
“We didn’t come out very well in the third quarter. A few things we were trying to do offensively didn’t work. It put us in some long down situations. Then all of a sudden we turn the ball over (on a low punt snap) and they go up two scores.”
Valor, which came in averaging 304 yards of total offense and 36.6 points per game, had 196 yards of offense.
The Eagles’ two quarterbacks, Blake Stenstrom and Luke McCaffrey, combined to complete 8-of-16 passes for 89 yards and Valor rushed for 115 yards.
Valor junior Joshua Davis ran for 70 yards on 20 carries and scored a touchdown. He limped off the field in second quarter. He did play in the second half but only had two carries for no yards.
Junior Ethan Zemla led the Eagles’ defense with eight total tackles while Matthew Tbibault, Peyton Polson and Jaden Murray were each credited with eight tackles.
Billingsley had 157 yards on six carries in the first half. He rushed 25 yards for a TD in the second half.
“It was a good lesson we learned,” Sherman said. “Grandview played so well. They deserve so much credit. It’s all part of the journey of life. It’s a reason why football is the greatest game. It teaches that journey more than anything else.”
Valor finished with an 11-1 record this season and the Eagles have compiled a 108-16 mark since 2009. The Eagles went 4-6 in their first season of competition in 2008.
“We would rather have had the season end different but yeah, it was a great season,” Thibault said. “It was the first time we have gone 10-0 during the regular season in 5A. I loved playing with these guys and wouldn’t take it back for the world.”
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