KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Platte County’s first response to playing from behind this season came out a bit wobbly.
After Park Hill South scored on the opening snap of Friday’s Suburban League nonconference matchup, Pirates sophomore quarterback Justin Mitchell opened with a shaky screen pass to sophomore wide receiver TJ Guillory. The play went for 31 yards and started an efficient eight-play touchdown drive for the Pirates.
Platte County quickly took the lead after the extra point — an advantage that held up for much of the game even after the Pirates limped into halftime with Mitchell on an injured ankle.
Mitchell came back to play all of the second half, and Platte County survived the only other flurry of scoring to earn a 14-12 victory at Park Hill District Stadium, improving to 4-0 on the season. Park Hill South’s final drive ended in quarterback Shaefer Schuetz’s lone interception with 1 minute, 20 seconds to play.
“We knew we were going to have some adversity at some point, so we came back,” Mitchell said. “We weren’t leaving the field without points on the first drive.”
Platte County didn’t trail during its opening three wins and received the lone challenge in that stretch during St. Joseph Central’s late comeback bid in Week 2.
Park Hill South (1-3) went ahead 6-0 on Friday after only 19 seconds when running back Derrick Cook (18 carries, 149 yards) dashed 82 yards around left end on the first play after the opening kickoff. The extra point failed, leaving the score at 6-0 — a point that ended up playing a crucial role in what became a defensive struggle.
Platte County failed to turn a goal-to-go situation into points late in the first quarter following defensive end Tyler Cooper’s strip of Schuetz and Tyler Clemens’ recovery. The Pirates also fumbled twice on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter, but Park Hill South couldn’t turn either of those giveaways into points.
Park Hill South ended up outgaining Platte County 360 yards to 257, while forcing the Pirates into four turnovers — three on fumbles.
“We switched the field on them, but we’re not finishing,” Park Hill South coach Mark Simcox said.
Mitchell reinjured his nagging left ankle on Park Hill South’s second sack of the first half and sat out the final 4:32 before the break, but he reemerged to play the opening snap of the third quarter and didn’t leave again despite occasional discomfort. He finished 7-of-15 passing for 137 yards, including the eventual game-winning touchdown.
“It definitely fired us up (to see him back) because he’s a huge piece of our offense. When you see him go down, it’s tough to see,” said Platte County senior linebacker Topher Kilkenny, who collected seven tackles (four for loss). “Justin fought through it. I’m proud of him. We really needed him in that game.”
A 43-yard scoring strike from Mitchell to Reed came 38:17 after Platte County’s first points.
Less than 2 minutes earlier, Park Hill South fell on a Reed fumble for the last of the Pirates’ turnovers. Kilkenny knifed into the backfield untouched on the next snap and delivered a crushing blow to Cook who coughed up the football leading to Dane Rader’s recovery for Platte County.
Three plays later, Mitchell’s pass into double coverage found its way to Reed, and he jaunted the final 19 yards untouched to increase Park Hill South’s deficit to 14-6.
“I have no clue (how it got there). Aliek went up and made a great play — a great play by a great player,” Mitchell said.
Park Hill South answered two plays later with Schuetz (187 yards total offense) connecting on a 43-yard touchdown pass to Mitch Henderson, who beat Platte County cornerback Lloyd Lockett with a wheel route. Following a timeout, a swing pass to Cook on the two-point conversion came up short.
Platte County held the lead with the Panthers’ final drive reaching Pirates’ territory but ending on the interception on a third-and-21 play.
“All the way around, they stepped up when they needed to,” Platte County coach Bill Utz said.
Still undefeated at this point for the first time since 2007, Platte County survived its biggest test to this point but continues its toughest stretch of the season this week. The Pirates, who received eight votes in each of the past two media Class 4 state rankings, host Class 5-ranked Winnetonka on Sept. 19 and travel to Class 4-ranked Kearney on Oct. 3 with a road date against Belton (2-2) in between.
Division I prospect Marquise Doherty — a 6-foot-1, 200-pound running back — leads Winnetonka (3-1), whose lone loss was 47-38 to Class 6 No. 1 Lee’s Summit West in Week 2.
Park Hill South (1-3) limps into its rivalry matchup with Park Hill having lost three straight — the Panthers’ longest losing streak since losing four straight in 2011. The Trojans are 4-0. The Panthers were blown out Week 2 against Class 6 powerhouse Lee’s Summit West and now dropped back-to-back tight decisions.
The Panthers defeated the Trojans in both meetings — in back-to-back weeks last year in regular season play and then in Class 5 District 8 play the next week.