Platte County's furious 4th quarter rally stuns Central, keeps Pirates unbeaten

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County junior quarterback Justin Mitchell (1) celebrates along with offensive lineman Conner Welch, left, following Platte County’s come-from-behind 41-34 win against St. Joseph Central on Friday, Aug. 28 at Noyes Field in St. Joseph, Mo. ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Don’t even pay attention to the rankings at this point.

The Missouri media voted Platte County up to No. 5 in its most recent Class 4 poll after the Pirates remained unbeaten with a 41-34 win at St. Joseph Central on Friday, Aug. 28. Now at 2-0, Platte County knows the results and reputation might not matchup to the on-field performance at this point in the season, especially after needing 24 unanswered points — all in the fourth quarter — to come back and stun the Indians on their home field last week.

The result marked the sixth straight game between the two teams decided by 11 points or less, more than a couple of them decided by wacky finishes. Not all of Platte County’s sub-par first three quarters can be chocked up to history against Central, which lost 55-15 to Kearney in Week 1.

“There’s all the talk of all the kids back and all this. It really doesn’t mean anything,” said Platte County coach Bill Utz, who brought back seven starters on both sides of the ball from last year’s bounceback 9-2 season. “We need to figure it out that when it’s time to play, it’s time to play. I think in the fourth quarter they finally realized we can play a little bit, and really, everybody stepped up and they all made plays. It was nice to see.”

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County senior running back Alex Minter, center, slides to make a catch against St. Joseph Central on Friday Aug. 28 at Noyes Field in St. Joseph, Mo.

Ruskin (0-2), coming off a 24-7 loss to Pembroke Hill, seems the perfect opponent to help Platte County inject some confidence back into their play.

The Pirates open their home slate and Suburban Conference Blue Division campaign on Friday, Sept. 4 at Pirate Stadium needing a dominant performance to back up their current lofty ranking. They will want to see more of the results from the fourth quarter vs. Central when junior quarterback Justin Mitchell orchestrated four scoring drives on his way to finishing with more than 400 yards of total offense and four touchdowns.

Platte County also needed a successful onside kick and an acrobatic interception from junior safety Kevin Neal to create the unstoppable wave of momentum required to overcome a 34-17 deficit and beat the Indians for a second straight season. The Pirates also came back Week 1 to beat William Chrisman 38-19.

“We’ve kind of developed a bad habit of falling behind,” Neal said. “But we fought, and that’s what happens. We came back. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again, though.”

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County senior wide receiver Zack Regan goes up to make a 22-yard catch against St. Joseph Central on Friday, Aug. 28 at Central High School in St. Joseph, Mo. He gained 22 yards on the play.

The comeback seemed to start with a bounce of good fortune in the third quarter.

Stagnant on offense from the second drive of the game, Platte County finally found some footing by throwing deep to senior wide receiver Zach Hamilton, who drew three pass interference penalties on one drive on Central junior cornerback Lawrence Wulu.

After a 22-yard completion to Zack Regan set up a goal-to-go situation, Mitchell hit slot receiver Alex Minter for a 4-yard score after ball bounced off the hands of a Central defender before caroming to the Pirates senior.

Within 28-17, Platte County’s hard work seemingly came undone in a span of three plays. Central running back Israel Smith, who torched the Pirates for a second straight year with 122 yards on 18 carries, converted a third-and-27 with a 28-yard run from the shadow of his own goal line. Two plays later, sophomore speedster Cade Musser took an end around pitch and went 67 yards for a touchdown, putting the Indians back up by 17 points.

“Never quit. No matter what the score is we keep playing hard, and good things happen — like tonight,” Hamilton said.

The last of Musser’s 138 yards of offense turned out to be the end of Central’s offense, which finished with 460 yards.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Mitchell went back to Hamilton and found him down the visitor’s sideline for a 65-yard touchdown past Wulu, and after a botched point-after kick attempt, Platte County remained down by two scores. Then sophomore Jamil Jones fell on top of Parker Lacina’s dribbled onside kick.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County quarterback Justin Mitchell (center) sets up to throw while right tackle Conner Welch (right) blocks St. Joseph Central's Keith Roderick on a play Friday, Aug. 28 at Central High School in St. Joseph, Mo.

That drive resulted in Lacina’s second field goal, a 25-yarder that cut the Indians’ advantage to 34-26. Central went three-and-out, and Mitchell took over the game.

“It’s not just Justin, but when that passion comes out of anyone and especially at the quarterback position, so many people feed off of it, and that confidence level just keeps going up,” Utz said.

Finishing 19-for-40 passing for 264 yards and 21 carries for a team-high 137 yards rushing, the second-year starter accounted for all 53 yards of offense on the next drive after a Central three-and-out. He ran in from 18 yards out then added the tying two-point jump pass to Carter Nugent.

Two plays later, Central quarterback Jacob Hess’ pass was deflected into the air, and Neal made a diving interception to set the Pirates up with a chance to take the lead at the Indians’ 39 with 5 minutes, 44 seconds to play.

“There were so many plays. There were so many big plays that were made, and that was just one,” Neal said.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County junior Mike McNair runs past St. Joseph Central senior Keith Roderick on Friday, Aug. 28 at Noyes field in St. Joseph, Mo.

Minter capped the ensuing drive with a 4-yard touchdown catch. He finished with three catches for 32 yards and two scores. TJ Guillory, who led Platte County with seven catches for 106, started the drive with a 17-yard catch down the seam, and running back Mike McNair, who totaled 111 yards and a score on the ground, rumbled down to the 9 on a stout catch-and-run to set up the score.

Hamilton added four catches for 81 yards.

Central’s last drive reached the Platte County 10 with a 58-yard completion from Hess to Matthews, the last of the Indians’ 188 passing yards. Two plays later, a snap went over the head of Smith on a wildcat running play, and Platte County sophomore Kobe Cummings, who didn’t play Week 1 due to injury, tracked the Central running back down for a shoestring tackle on a 16-yard loss.

Hess then scrambled for 10 before his fourth down pass into the end zone fell incomplete, allowing the Pirates to gain one first down before kneeling out the final 1:04 of the win.

“It’s just amazing. That’s all I can say,” Hamilton said.

Platte County (2-0) will likely be without senior safety Tyler Clemens against Ruskin after he injured his right shoulder returning a kickoff after Central’s first play from scrimmage went for a 65-yard touchdown pass. He remained in the game until his second kick return after the Indians went up 14-7 midway through the first quarter, a lead that held up until the final minutes.

Regan also injured his back on the 22-yard catch in the third quarter and did not return.