It looks like fall has arrived here in our corner of the world and that makes for a crisp Friday Night Lights tonight. Here’s hoping the rain moves out of the area before kickoff. Weather aside, tonight’s games also mark pivotal points in the season for our area gridiron teams. With the district tournaments looming large, wins – or losses – tonight could either give teams a lift heading into the final regular season game of the year and district playoffs or pave a tough road to travel.
Platte County is certainly one of the teams on the brink. The Pirates, 4-3, have been manhandled by Kearney and Liberty North in two of their last three games and stand one weather-delayed fourth quarter outburst against NKC away from having lost three straight games.
Platte County’s task this evening at Pirates Stadium in Platte City is a tough one – the Winnetonka Griffins come to town riding a six-game winning streak. They have scored 113 points the last three games and feature dangerous duo of backs Aaron Mends and Marquise Doherty. The guess here is that Pirates QB Tyler Cooper and his stable of backs/receivers – Jordan Branson, Aliek Reed, Nic Blaha and Matthew Barmann – will need to put a minimum of 30 points on the board.
Currently, the Pirates are ranked fourth in the 8-team Class 4 District standings, with Liberty North, Savannah and Van Horn ahead of them. A win would likely keep them in the host slot for the playoffs first round with a very winnable game at Ray South next week; a loss would drop them into an away game slot with one week left.
Park Hill, 3-4, plays at St. Joseph Central tonight and the winner will definitely have a leg up on the other in the Class 5 District 8 standings. The Trojans enter the game third out of six teams, while Central is fourth, but just. .21 points behind. The Trojans, who have been hit hard by injuries to key players this season, could move into the two spot and secure a first-round bye with wins tonight and next week over rival Park Hill South. Kearney looks like it will finish in the top spot.
Of course, the same can be said about South, 3-4, which enters tonight’s action in fifth place in the district standings. Should the Panthers upset Liberty North tonight at Park Hill District Stadium and then take down the Trojans next week, they could jump to the No. 2 spot.
West Platte, 2-5, holds the second spot in the Class 1 District 7 standings heading into tonight’s game at Plattsburg, but the Jays didn’t do themselves any favors by losing at home last week to Mid Buchanan, which sits at No. 1. Should the Jays get by the Tigers tonight, a tough regular-season finale at Lawson awaits. Ouch.
Finally, North Platte will need to pull off a major upset the last two weeks either at Hamilton tonight or at home against Plattsburg next week to avoid a winless regular season. The Panthers are almost certainly guaranteed to finish either sixth or seventh in the seven-team bracket.