West Platte football's losing skid hits 3 with pass game still struggling

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo West Platte seniors Brett Shepardson, left and Dalton Larison, bottom, attempt to bring down Lathrop senior Cody Hart, center, during a game on Friday, Sept. 11 at Rudolph Eskridge Stadium in Weston, Mo. WESTON, Mo. — There were many bright spots for West Platte but not enough to earn a first win in KCI Conference play.

Lathrop scored late, and a desperation heave into the end zone from Bluejays converted offensive lineman turned quarterback Brett Shepardson late in the fourth quarter fell incomplete. That sealed a 27-21 win for the Mules — their first under first-year head coach Chris Holt.

West Platte fell to 1-3 after starting the season ranked No. 6 in the Missouri Class 1 media poll, the last two losses in league play.

“We took a stride tonight; that was by far the best game we’ve played all year,” West Platte coach Nate Danneman said. “I know Lathrop was 0-3, but that’s a dang good 0-3 team. They had played three tough football teams. We played right with them. It’s a learning step. We have four games under our belt of a new quarterback. We have kids in new places.”

West Platte outgained Lathrop 258-220 but could not convert the extra yards into points. Shepardson showed growth under center, tossing a 49-yard pass to Grant Eagan that helped West Platte regain the lead in the second quarter in what turned into a back-and-forth game.

Five plays after the big completion, junior running back Kyle Tabaka rumbled 20 yards before being tripped up with his last-ditch dive for the end zone coming up one yard short. Shepardson plowed in on the next play.

Overall, Shepardson went just 2-for-6 for 63 yards, but the completion to Eagan on a deep fade route down the left side provided encouragement that the passing game can still develop to complement the strong rushing attack.

“You wouldn’t imagine how long we’ve been working on that,” Danneman said. “Shep has been a work in progress. He’d never thrown a football until this summer. We still have to get his mechanics down and his reads. There’s a lot going on for a kid to come in and play quarterback after playing offensive line.”

West Platte led 7-0 after Tabaka took the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, but the advantage didn’t last long. Lathrop scored on its next two possessions on a 26-yard run for senior Cody Hart and a 3-yard plunge from James Knifong.

Shepardson’s 1-yard touchdown gave West Platte the lead back in the second quarter, but the Mules answered again with a 22-yard passing touchdown from David Moore to Conner Vanderkooi with 38 seconds left until the break.

West Platte would take the lead back at 21-19 midway through the third quarter on Shepardson’s second rushing score, an 18-yarder. He appeared to add some cushion on the next drive, but a flag nullified a 70-yard touchdown scamper on a read option keeper, leading to a punt.

Shepardson finished with 88 yards rushing, while Tabaka led the way 95 on the ground on 15 carries.

“Kyle played hard,” Danneman said. “He had a little cramping issue, but the kid’s playing four quarters. He’s not coming off the field special teams, offense, defense. He’s a hard player and he’s a hard worker.”

The missed touchdown ended up a haunting missed opportunity.

With 6:44 to go, Moore found Hart on an 11-yard pass play, and the two-point run from Knifong created a six-point deficit. West Platte drove down the field in search of a tying or winning score, but Shepardson’s fourth-and-7 pass from the 30 intended for Eagen fell incomplete.

Lathrop ran out the clock on the win, leaving West Platte with more to work on seeking balance in the offense.

Lawson 42, North Platte 14

The Panthers dropped their second straight, falling to 2-2 overall but 0-2 in KCI Conference play with a loss Friday, Sept. 11 in Lawson, Mo.

After an unbeaten start, North Platte enters its annual rivalry matchup with West Platte looking for its first win in the series since 2006 — a 38-19 win for the Panthers. West Platte has won 10 straight from 2007 to 2014.

Lawson (2-2) led 28-0 at halftime, forcing a pair of turnovers. Ben French’s lost fumble set up the Cardinals’ first touchdown in the first quarter, and quarterback Anthony Hernandez’s interception helped the Cardinals keep North Platte scoreless going into the break.

Entered at quarterback for the second half, French scored on a pair of long runs (90 and 79 yards, respectively) during the second half. The first touchdown brought the Panthers within 28-6, and the second closed the gap to 35-14. Lawson answered both with touchdowns to nix serious hopes of a comeback.

French totaled 173 yards on just seven carries, while senior running back Jordan Hendricks ran for 73 on 17 attempts.