By Max Goodwin
Damian Norfleet Jr. was a 14-year-old who loved football and his family. He was cleaning his home off Ashland Avenue in Grandview with his siblings in June of 2019 when shots came through the backdoor, hitting and killing Damian.
Last Friday was senior night for the Grandview Bulldogs football team. Damian would have been there with his class of 2023 teammates. But because of a still unsolved murder, Damian never made it to high school.
In his memory, seniors on the team who knew Damian ran onto the field that night holding a sign with his name and a number 58 jersey, the number he wore when he played with them. Senior Calan Wright was friends with Damian. He held the jersey and carefully draped it over the side of the team bench where the Grandview fans could see the number 58, and the jersey stayed there for the rest of the game.
“Just everybody coming out and him being with us it means a lot,” said senior running back Calan Wright.
As Grandview jumped out to a bigger lead in the second half, talk on the sideline became that the Bulldogs were going for 58 points.
Grandview came into the game needing a win. The Bulldogs had opportunities but dropped the first game of the season against William Chrisman, then lost at Grain Valley, 43-28. Starting 0-3 with losses to Raytown South and William Chrisman would have been a tough hill to climb for the rest of the season.
Grandview had its back against the ropes early when Raytown South scored the first touchdown and then the Raytown South kickoff bounced off a Grandview player’s hands and was recovered by Raytown South. But on the next play of that Raytown South drive, linebacker Nathan Ly of Grandview intercepted a pass and turned the momentum back to the Bulldogs. The following play for Grandview’s offense was a run up the middle by Wright, he burst through the line and ran for a 30-yard touchdown.
The sequence turned out to be emblematic of how the game went for Grandview. When mistakes happened they were able to quickly respond and recover.
Punts were dropped, there were fumbles, and penalties on important plays were made. Coach Dan Joiner and the Grandview staff will find plenty to correct after that game, but time and time again the Bulldogs had each other’s back.
They picked their teammates up after mistakes. Players that made mistakes early in the game made big plays later.
In the end, the Bulldogs came two points shy of scoring 58 points to honor their friend, Damian.
“58 was the goal, but we’ll get it next time,” Wright said.
Grandview won 56-31 over Raytown South and the Bulldogs are now 1-2 as they play at home against Winnetonka on Sept. 16.
The family of Damian Norfleet Jr. is offering a reward of over $100,000 for information leading to an arrest and the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers has a reward of $2,000 for information leading to an arrest in Damian’s case.
Center and Ruskin win big in week 3
The Center Yellowjackets are on fire to start the season winning three straight games by a combined score of 164-44. The latest opponent to be stung by the Yellowjackets was Oak Grove, 61-31, on Friday night.
The most impressive of Center’s three wins was the second game of the season in a big home matchup against Lincoln Prep. Center dominated Lincoln on both sides of the ball, winning 42-7. The two schools played each other last year after a few years without scheduling each other. Lincoln was 11-1 and reached the state quarterfinals last season while beating Center 29-14.
Rachaad White, a 2017 graduate of Center and current running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, returned home to watch the Yellowjackets beat Lincoln before he began the NFL season.
Next for Center on the schedule is Christ Prep Academy (Lenexa), at 1-1 this season with a win over Pembroke Hill.
The Ruskin Eagles earned the first win of the season with force in a 41-6 beatdown of Wyandotte. Ruskin is now 1-2 this season and will travel to Smithville on Sept. 16 for a conference matchup.