WESTON, Mo. — West Platte linebacker Brett Shepardson had little time to think after collecting his second turnover of the first half for the Bluejays. The junior intercepted a pass on his own 5-yard line and broke a return to the outside last Friday at Rudolph Eskridge Stadium. He celebrated his second defensive touchdown seconds later after outrunning all of his pursuers, helping the Bluejays to a 45-0 win against rival North Platte.
“I didn’t think I was that fast,” said Shepardson, who finished with 100 yards rushing on the game on nine carries in addition to his defensive highlights. “Once I got a couple of blocks and got outside, I knew I was gone. It’s a huge momentum boost. Nerves were kind of getting to us. Homecoming and a big rivalry game, but those big turnovers gave us momentum and calmed the nerves.”
Shepardson’s first score came on a fumble return in a role reversal from a Week 4 win at Lathrop when he helped force a fumble that led to a Cody Guthrie touchdown return just before the half. This week, Guthrie helped force a fumble from Panthers running back Jordan Hendricks that Shepardson scooped up before bounding into the end zone from 32 yards out to push West Platte’s lead to 12-0 in the first quarter.
The Bluejays (4-1, 2-1 KCI Conference) won their 10th straight in the series with North Platte dating back to 2006.
Up next for West Platte: a road date with Hamilton (5-0, 3-0 KCI) and standout senior running back Kellen Overstreet in Week 6. He set Missouri’s all-time record for yards from scrimmage in a 47-8 win against Plattsburg last Friday, bettering the mark of 9,193 yards Brad Hocker of Archie previously set in the early 1990s. The Hornets, ranked No. 2 in the most recent Missouri media Class 1 state poll, swept both meetings between the two teams last season including a 61-46 win in the quarterfinals to end the Bluejays’ season at 5-8.
West Platte garnered six points in the Class 1 rankings, released Tuesday with the lone loss on its ledger against Class 2-ranked East Buchanan.
“We’re going to have to be physical,” West Platte coach Nate Danneman said of the team’s preparation for Hamilton. “We’re a physical football club. We play hard. If (Overstreet) is scoring we’ve got to score. If they’re scoring, we’re going to have to go score for score with them.”
North Platte (1-4, 1-2 KCI) was shut out for the first time this season after four such defeats in last year’s 0-10 campaign. The Panthers twice marched the ball into the red zone, but Shepardson’s interception and a turnover on downs kept them out of the scoring column.
The shutout came after a 10-turnover performance in a loss to Lawson the previous week.
“We’re still not executing offensively,” North Platte coach Jim Brockhoff said. “I don’t think we played very hard. That’s a reflection on me that we’re not playing as hard as we need to, and we’re not playing very smart either. We’ve got to find a heartbeat in ourselves. We’ve got to learn to push ourselves when it gets tough. Too many times we have a bad play or a bad series and we let down, and we continue to let down.
“Once it gets the snowball rolling, it doesn’t stop.”
North Platte held some early momentum after a fumble recovery of its own.
West Platte’s defense started with a three-and-out, forcing a Panthers punt. The Bluejays fumbled on their first offensive play, giving North Platte a short field. A second three-and-out forced another punt, and West Platte started at its first scoring drive on its own 5-yard line, marching 95 yards in 4 minutes and capping it with Guthrie’s 7-yard touchdown run.
“The turnovers are going to kill you,” said Guthrie, the starting quarterback who also hit the century mark with 108 yards and four touchdowns on the ground on 11 carries. “We were blessed tonight to not have many turnovers. We had the fumble early on, but that’s what decides the ball game” whoever makes the least mistakes.”
North Platte hosts Lathrop (0-5, 0-3 KCI) this week in a homecoming clash, looking to stop a two-game losing streak.