Platte County football starts slow again, records another blowout finish

TODD NUGENT/Special to the Citizen Platte County sophomore linebacker Dakota Schmidt, left, emerges from the pile with a fumble recovery for the Pirates against Winnetonka on Friday, Sept. 18 at North Kansas City District Stadium in North Kansas City, Mo. Despite another slow start, Platte County found yet another way to win.

The Pirates recorded their first shutout of the season, turning three turnovers into 17 points in a 36-0 win against Winnetonka on Friday, Sept. 18 at North Kansas City District Stadium in North Kansas City, Mo. They led just 10-0 at halftime but poured on the points in the second half while limiting the Griffins to just 188 yards of offense total — 71 coming on one play.

Willie Smith and Alex Minter scored two touchdowns apiece, while TJ Guillory turned in his biggest performance of the season for Platte County (5-0) in its Suburban Conference Blue Division opener. The Pirates now shift attention to a homecoming matchup with improved Belton (3-2) on Friday, Sept. 25 before the annual rivalry game with Kearney (4-1) on Friday, Oct. 2.

Platte County, Belton and Kearney are all 1-0 in league play. Belton has won two straight and so has Kearney since a Week 3 loss to Liberty North. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 6 in the most recent Missouri media Class 4 poll, since a loss to Liberty North.

Still ranked No. 5 in Class 4, Platte County didn’t trail for a third straight week but again suffered through a first half lull for the fourth time in five games.

TODD NUGENT/Special to the Citizen Platte County senior Alex Minter hauls in a catch against Winnetonka on Friday, Sept. 18 at North Kansas City District Stadium in North Kansas City, Mo.

Winnetonka lost the first of two fumbles on its opening possession, but the Pirates could only convert the giveaway into a 33-yard field goal for Parker Lacina, who went just 1-for-3 on the day. After a three-and-out, the Pirates marched to a 10-0 lead with a 22-yard completion to Guillory eventually leading to a 9-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Justin Mitchell to Alex Minter, who caught just three passes for 22 yards but two went for scores bringing the season total for the senior running back turned receiver to seven touchdowns on 16 grabs.

That two-possession lead held until the second half with Winnetonka twice punting in Pirates’ territory and missing a field goal on the last play of the second quarter.

Smith, a bruising bowling ball of a senior running back, helped pad the lead. He put up 39 of his 65 yards rushing on the opening possession of the third quarter, capping off the drive with a 23-yard touchdown. He ended up leading a tree-pronged rushing attack that also featured junior running back Mike McNair (68 yards) and Mitchell (64).

Staked to the 17-0 lead, Platte County then yielded a 71-yard run to Griffins running back Mingus Craddock on the next play.

However, Winnetonka lost its second fumble on the next snap, and the Pirates drove 85 yards on 12 plays, including big runs for McNair (20 and 10 yards), Mitchell (16 yards) and Smith (12 yards). Mitchell, who finished 15-for-31 for 215 yards, capped the methodical march with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Minter to put the Pirates up 22-0.

TODD NUGENT/Special to the Citizen Platte County senior defensive lineman Tyler Blankenship, right, fights through blocks against Winnetonka on Friday, Sept. 18 at North Kansas City District Stadium in North Kansas City, Mo.

The final two scores came in the fourth — a 61-yard touchdown pass to Guillory on a one play drive early and a 6-yard run for Smith.

Guillory finished with game-highs of six catches for 143 yards. Two plays after his long touchdown, Platte County senior Johnny Blankenship intercepted Griffins quarterback Brad Willis and returned it 17 yards to the Winnetonka 6. Smith, receiving more and more touches as the season progresses, ran in three plays later to start the running clock for the final 9:16.

Platte County has allowed just 19 points total the past three weeks in wins against Ruskin, Park Hill South and Winnetonka. The Pirates trailed in each of their first two wins and were tied 7-7 with Park Hill South last week before another second half onslaught.

In last year’s matchup with Belton, Platte County used that formula, struggling early before pulling away to a 40-8 win. That improved the Pirates to 6-0 before a blowout loss to Kearney the following week ended their bid for a perfect regular season.