Even as the lead expanded, Platte County coach Bill Utz knew what to expect.
The recent history for his Pirates against St. Joseph Central provided an indicator of how Friday’s matchup would end at Pirate Stadium. The Indians nearly erased a three-touchdown deficit, and Platte County junior safety Johnny Blankenship needed to knock a final pass away on the game’s final play to preserve a 29-22 victory. Central holds a 3-2 advantage in the matchups the past five years with each game decided by 11 points or less. “If you go back to the history of what we’ve done in the last five games, they’re all close; they’re all crazy. Something’s weird with each one of them,” said Utz, who hadn’t beaten Central since a 19-15 triumph in 2011 after losing late leads each of the past two seasons. “We’ve been in the situation where we were up on them before and then we couldn’t hold on so I knew they were going to give their best effort. “We might as well expect this every year (we play Central).” Central couldn’t complete the comeback this time, and Platte County improved to 2-0 to start a season for the first time since 2007. The Pirates take their unbeaten mark for a road date at Ruskin on Friday — the first of five away games in the final seven weeks of the regular season. Platte County endured an 8 p.m. start in Week 1 due to excessive heat, and lightning delayed the start against Central by an hour and a half. More inclement weather created a longer halftime, and a game with an expected 7 p.m. kickoff didn’t end until nearly midnight. Utz hopes the third game can bring some normalcy to a hectic early schedule. “It would be all right,” he said. “I need these guys to get into a routine, and we haven’t been able to do that yet.” Not routine, but the results have been favorable.
Platte County senior wide receiver Aliek Reed caught four touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Justin Mitchell against Central (0-2), the final one putting the Pirates ahead 29-8 with 33 seconds left in the third quarter. They didn’t score again. Central sophomore running back Israel Smith (172 yards on 28 carries) scored rushing touchdowns on each of the Indians’ next two drives, cutting the deficit to seven after trailing 22-0 early after the second play of the third quarter — a 53-yard touchdown connection between Mitchell and Reed. Platte County punted on its final possession, leaving the besieged defense to try and prevent a potential tying or winning score. A defensive holding penalty on fourth-and-5 kept Central’s drive alive, setting up a pair of plays from inside the red zone. Indians junior quarterback Jacob Hess, who finished 15-for-32 for 89 yards, threw incomplete on the first, and on the second, he rolled left and lofted a pass into the end zone toward Keith Roderick and freshman Cade Musser. Blankenship broke across the end zone and hit Roderick as the ball arrived, dislodging a potential completion from the receiver and preserving the win. “I wasn’t thinking about it, just flying around and playing instinctively,” Blankenship said.
Mitchell went 14-for-27 for 271 yards, helping a run game that struggled to produce 52 yards, averaging just 2.0 yards per carry after rolling up more than 200 in a Week 1 win vs. William Chrisman. Reed finished with seven catches for 199 yards, and he now has five touchdowns through the first two games. That gives the Mitchell-Reed connection a total of 13 connections for 312 yards. “I feel like Ruskin, we should be able to make it five (in one game). Do even more,” Reed said. Platte County owns a 4-0 record against Ruskin since the Pirates joined the Suburban League in 2008. The Eagles, who improved to 1-1 with a win last week vs. Pembroke Hill, has scored just 26 total points in the four previous matchups, allowing an average of almost 40 points per game in the losses.