Collins, Dutcher force safety to lead North Platte football to unique win

North Platte made the new coach’s debut memorable — maybe more so from the score than the result. The Panthers recorded a sack for a safety in the second quarter for the only scoring in a 2-0 season-opening victory against Gallatin on Friday, Aug. 21 in Gallatin, Mo. The two teams combined for just more than 300 yards of offense and 15 total first downs with one bad snap the difference in the outcome.

“I have never been a part of a 2-0 game, but I’ll take it,” North Platte coach Josh Rodriguez said.

Without a heroic effort from wide receiver Kyle Ewing, North Platte (1-0) might not have ended its seven-game losing streak dating back to Week 4 of the 2014 season. The Panthers took the ensuing kickoff after the safety and drove deep into Gallatin territory, but senior running back Jordan Hendricks threw an interception on a trick play inside the 10-yard line on the final play of the half.

Gallatin’s Tate Hancock returned the pick 99 yards, only to have Ewing chase him down and tackle him at the 1 to prevent a score.

Ewing accounted for both of North Platte’s pass receptions, as well, finishing with two catches for 29 yards. Hendricks rushed 25 times for 69 yards — both team highs — but Gallatin outgained the Panthers 178-132 in total offense.

“We had our chances to score otherwise we just couldn’t sustain drives and finish,” Rodriguez said. “I am very proud of our defensive effort.”

North Platte’s points came after quarterback Anthony Hernandez used a quick-kick punt to pin Gallatin at its own 10-yard line late in the half.

On the very next play, Bulldogs junior quarterback Wyatt Bird, who finished 9-for-13 passing and accounted for 134 yards of offense, mishandled a snap from center. North Platte senior linebacker Joshua Dutcher covered up Bird in the end zone for the safety, but Rodriguez credited senior defensive tackle Jon Collins (11 tackles) with creating problems for Gallatin’s interior line, leading to multiple bad snaps.

Remington Wilson, a sophomore, led North Platte with 14 tackles, while fellow linebacker Ben French recorded 10. Ewing and Hendricks added nine apiece, and Hendricks also recorded a sack.

The defense proved enough to help North Platte win its first non-conference game since Aug. 31, 2012 against now-defunct Derrick Thomas Academy. The Panthers and Gallatin have played their season-opener each year since 2010 with the Bulldogs winning the previous three matchups, including a 35-3 win last year.

West Platte 29, Kansas City East 20

West Platte senior Brett Shepardson led the team to a win in his first game as full-time starting quarterback on Friday, Aug. 21 at the Interscholastic League Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

While his passing numbers may not have been impressive, the senior racked up 186 yards on the ground on 26 carries. Fellow senior Justin Rhodes accounted for 166 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries to provide a second-prong to the Bluejays’ power running attack.

West Platte (1-0) scored first on a 5-yard run from Kyle Tabaka. Rhodes scored three times after halftime, including two scoring runs in the final four minutes of the third quarter after East took a brief 14-7 lead.

Shepherdson, moved from offensive line to quarterback in district play last year due to injuries, completed just 1-of-8 passes for 13 yards.

West Platte entered ranked No. 9 in the Missouri media state rankings and moved up to No. 6 and sit just two points back of No. 5 Osceola. The Bluejays’ next test comes Friday, Aug. 28 at Wellington-Napoleon, which debuted at No. 9 in the second set of rankings after throttling Lone Jack 50-16 in Week 1.