In recovering from a blowout loss the previous week to Kearney, Platte County improved to 7-1, all but locked up the second seed in Class 4 District 8 and kept alive hopes for a share of the Suburban League Blue Division title. Grandview committed four turnovers and gained only 119 yards of offense on 53 total plays.
“I think our defense is definitely the backbone of this team. I think we set the tone in a way,” said Platte County senior defensive end Tyler Cooper, who recorded four tackles and a fumble recovery in the win. “I don’t think we were hurt (by the Kearney result). I think we were just more embarrassed and disappointed in ourselves. We obviously weren’t ready for that game, but this was good.
“At this point, we aren’t taking anything for granted. Everything matters from here on out.”
Platte County gave up 52 points and failed to score for the only time this season in Week 7 at Kearney, bringing to an end the Pirates unbeaten start and making the Bulldogs the favorite for the top seed in Class 4 District 8.
Despite the loss, Platte County enters Week 9 with a chance to beat Raytown South and earn at least a share of the division title, which would be the Pirates first since joining the Suburban League in 2008. Winnetonka (at Belton) and Kearney (vs. Grandview) can also earn a piece with victories in the final week of the regular season.
Platte County finished 3-7 a year ago but have made a marked turnaround with just six seniors and a slew of rising sophomore standouts. The Pirates are all but certain to host St. Joseph Benton (3-5, winners of two straight in the Midland Empire Conference) in the first round of districts with Smithville the likely No. 3 and St. Joseph Lafayette the No. 4.
Raytown South (5-3) enters off a loss to Winnetonka, and the Cardinals’ other defeats were to Kearney and Class 5 No. 1-ranked Fort Osage.
“We wanted to win (the league title), but sharing it is better than losing it,” said Platte County senior Aliek Reed, the Pirates’ leading receiver at 22 catches for 593 yards and seven touchdowns held without a catch for the second straight week while taking over the team lead with three interceptions with his first two since a game-sealing pick against Park Hill South in Week 4. “They’re a good team. Hopefully, defense can come down and stop them because they’re pretty fast, and the offense can make plays.”
Platte County sophomore running back Michael McNair upped his season total to 808 yards on the ground after a career-high 202 on 20 carries. Overall, the Pirates ran for 318 yards on 41 attempts with junior running back Alex Minter scoring on runs of 11 and 44 yards, McNair on a 20-yarder and quarterback Justin Mitchell on a 1-yard sneak.
The first of Reed’s two interceptions, which came off of a deflection from safety Johnny Blankenship, set up Mitchell’s short touchdown runs. After a three-and-out, McNair broke off a 47-yard run to Grandview’s 4, and Mitchell hit Zach Hamilton with a 5-yard touchdown pass two plays later to help the Pirates take a 20-0 lead into halftime.
“Offensively, we put up 36, but at the same time, we had some things where we kind of stalled out and did some things that are not good,” Platte County coach Bill Utz said. “So when the defense stepped up and got us the ball right back, it’s a good thing for an offense to be able to keep making plays.”
In the third quarter, Cooper fell on a quarterback Ronny Johnson’s fumble to end Grandview’s best drive – a march that reached the Pirates’ 22. Minter’s second scoring run came on the resulting drive to put the Pirates ahead 33-0 with 1 minute, 35 seconds left in the third quarter.
Reed added his second interception to keep Grandview scoreless and set up Parker Lacina’s 26-yard field goal for the final points, jumpstarting a running clock for the final 8:58.
“Any time you have a shutout, the defense obviously plays very well,” Utz said. “It’s good to come back from last week and kind of get things back on track.”