Even Liberty High School senior David Graves admitted surprise at just how well things turned out in the Blue Jays’ opener last Friday night. After a scoreless first quarter, Liberty finished off a 35-0 blowout of Winnetonka. Graves ran 19 times for 139 yards and two scores in the victory. He also made all five extra-point attempts. Listed at 5-foot-9, Graves has been a running back since he began playing flag football. He’s in his third year as a starter with Liberty. He’s also landed our No. 1 spot in this season’s kickoff edition of Four Downs with The Star.
1. How much does last week’s result change your expectations for this season?
It just boosts your confidence. I was expecting a much closer game. But after we were getting our (rear ends) whooped in the running game in the first quarter, we turned it on and showed what we can do.
2. How comforting is it running behind one of the area’s biggest and most experienced offensive lines?
It’s awesome. This is the biggest offensive line I’ve ever run behind. And they’re good. I just always know those guys are going to get the job done, which makes my job easier.
3. As a shorter tailback, do you feel teams overlook you to a certain extent?
I think depending on what team you’re going to play, sometimes they underestimate me. But being tall doesn’t have that much to do with how you run. For me, I’m still a thicker back and I can use my power to break tackles and run up the middle.
4. What is your ideal play as a running back?
I would have the (offensive) guard pull and I’d follow him up the middle. That’s my preference. I like to do the power running and go through contact. If you can break a tackle and truck someone into the end zone, that’s the best feeling you can have — taking someone into the end zone with you.
BY THE NUMBERS
Touchdowns for Grandview running back Jerel Alexander in a 55-40 win against Oak Park. One of only four returning starters back on offense, Alexander helped the Bulldogs pull away in the second half after taking a six-point lead into halftime.
The percentage of passes attempted by Platte County quarterback Tyler Cooper that went for touchdowns in a 42-7 win against William Chrisman. Cooper attempted only 11 passes last week, but four of them put points on the scoreboard. Aliek Reed was on the receiving end of two of the four.
Combined wins last season for Eudora (12-2) and Piper (10-3), who meet in the season opener for the second straight season. Visiting Eudora will be vying for a strong start under first-year coach Kevin Kopecky, whose previous stops include Leavenworth and St. Thomas Aquinas. Meanwhile, host Piper would love to avenge a 21-7 loss against the Cardinals in last season’s Class 4A semifinals.
Tackles in the last two seasons by Bishop Miege senior linebacker Brad Ivey, who leads the Stags’ defense in search of a second consecutive appearance in the Class 5A championship game. Ivey, senior wide receiver/cornerback McKinley Johnson and junior quarterback Ryan Willis are the headliners for Miege, which play host to Blue Valley North in the season opener.
Rushing yards Blue Valley West must replace without Conley Wilkins, who has moved on to Drake University. The Jaguars went 8-3 last season and believe they can contend for the Class 5A championship, but Wilkins, who also scored 17 touchdowns, leaves a big hole for senior Grant Garcia to try and fill.
| Sam McDowell, firstname.lastname@example.org | Tod Palmer and Sam McDowell of The Star contributed to this report.