Injury forces Lockett under center as Platte County's unbeaten start ends vs. Belton

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County senior Lloyd Lockett (7)attempts a pass to Carter Nugent (14), while senior offensive lineman Conner Welch keeps Belton defensive lineman Christopher McDonald (50) at bay on Friday, Sept. 25 at Pirate Stadium. Forced to make an almost unthinkable switch in a span of three days, Lloyd Lockett looked poised to continue Platte County’s dominant season against a respectable challenger.

The Platte County senior engineered a pair of scoring drives on the Pirates’ first two possessions Friday, Sept. 25 at Pirate Stadium in front of an energized homecoming crowd. Lockett shifted to quarterback just two days earlier in the wake of junior second-year starter Justin Mitchell’s severely separate shoulder, suffered in practice Tuesday night in a collision with a teammate.

For his part, Lockett hadn’t played quarterback in a competitive game, save for a few emergency snaps last year in place of a dinged-up Mitchell.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County sophomore defenders Kobe Cummings (25) and JP Post (20) look to help bring down Belton running back Zach Willis on Friday, Sept. 25 at Pirate Stadium. Willis finished with 300 yards rushing on 39 carries in Belton’s 50-24 victory.

“Confidence was high,” said Lockett, who ran much of Platte County’s seven-on-seven in the summer at quarterback with Mitchell fulfilling baseball obligations. “I thought we came out with a spark, playing with a high intensity: we wanted to move the ball; we wanted to score.”

The emotion did not carry over in a 50-24 loss.

Belton running back Zach Willis finished with 300 yards on 39 carries, including six touchdowns, to help put an end to Platte County’s unbeaten start and hand the host Pirates a first loss in Suburban Conference Blue Division play. Platte County finished with five turnovers, including three interceptions for Lockett, while allowing more points than in the three previous games combined.

Belton scored on four straight possessions in both the first and second halves, getting points off of each of the giveaways.

“Yeah, I got put in a tough spot, but I think I should step up,” Lockett said. “Yeah, I made bad throws, but if we step up as a whole, those bad throws turn into good throws and we’ll just play through it until I get more experience.”

Platte County (5-1) dropped to No. 10 from No. 5 in the most recent Missouri media Class 4 poll, taking some of the luster off of the upcoming showdown with Kearney (5-1) — winners of three straight since a loss to Liberty North. Kearney assumed Platte County’s spot in the poll heading into the matchup Friday, Oct. 2 at Pirate Stadium which could still play a big part in determining the league title.

Kearney’s lone loss came 21-10 against Class 5 Liberty North with quarterback Logan Hinck injured during the game. The Bulldogs have scored 49 or more in their five wins when Hinck played a full game and have put up 53, 62 and 60 the past three weeks in wins against Raytown South, Ruskin and Winnetonka, outscoring that trio 175-28.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County linebacker Christian Encarnacion, left, looks to make a tackle on Belton quarterback Justus Shaw on Friday Sept. 25 at Pirate Stadium.

Lockett will again be under center with Mitchell — a Division I commit to Oklahoma University in baseball — out for the season with an expected recovery time of 12 weeks after undergoing surgery the day before the game. Mitchell started the previous 17 games for Platte County, racking up 1,162 yards passing, 322 yards rushing and 18 total touchdowns in the first five games this season coming off a standout sophomore campaign.

“It’s not like Justin is going to come back. We have to move forward with what we have,” said Platte County coach Bill Utz, who has lost to Kearney in back-to-back seasons, including a 52-0 shellacking last year that played a part in a three-way split of the Blue Division title.

Platte County must rally — and quick — around Lockett, one of the team’s vocal leaders.

In his first start, Lockett went 9-for-21 for 107 yards, while running for 25 yards against Belton (4-2), winners of three straight and tied with Kearney at 2-0 in Blue Division play with the only losses to Class 6 Raymore-Peculiar (3-3) in Week 1 and Class 5 No. 5-ranked Park Hill in Week 3. The best moments for him came on the opening two drives — three completions for 35 yards and a 13-yard scramble.

Lockett practiced with the offense for only two days before making the start.

“In reality, it’s been four days,” Utz said. “A team in that situation against a tough matchup in Belton anyway, that’s a dangerous situation. Then when we turn the ball over five times and they don’t do it at all, that’s never going to be a win.

“We’re asking him in four days to act like he’s in midseason form. That’s not going to happen. He’s a special kid and does a nice job, but that’s asking a lot out of him.”

Last year, Lockett threw two passes against Park Hill South and totaled three carries, including a 4-yard touchdown run in the 2014 opener against William Chrisman. He started the past three seasons on defense at cornerback and recorded two interceptions and one return touchdown last year and in the first five games this season.

Utz plans to keep him on offense only as injuries continue to mount against Platte County. Tyler Clemens, a senior defensive back, went out for the season with a severely separated shoulder in Week 2 after a two-touchdown performance in the opener, and senior wide receiver Zack Regan (back), sophomore defensive back Kobe Cummings (shoulder), senior defensive tackle Dane Rader (illness) and junior offensive guard Austin Gammill (ankle) all missing significant time.

“I’m always going to take the role of leader,” Lockett said. “Our team, when we play together, we can do some really special things. Once we regroup this week, I still think we are going to do some special things.

“It’s been a really eventful week. It just seems like once one thing happens, another happens.”

Willis, Belton’s stout but quick running back, fumbled on his opening carry for a 12-yard loss, leading to three-and-out. Under center for the first time, Lockett completed passes of 11 and 14 yards to TJ Guillory and Alex Minter on back-to-back to plays before Minter scampered in for the opening touchdown — his fourth in two weeks — to complete a five-play drive and give Platte County a 7-0 lead.

After another Belton punt, Platte County went 59 yards on nine plays with running back Mike McNair gaining 44 of his team-high 187 yards rushing, including a 2-yard touchdown plunge. The second score came one play after Lockett scrambled 13 yards for a first down on a third-and-12.

Belton scored the next 27 unanswered in a span of just more than 7 minutes, aided by two of Platte County’s turnovers.

Lockett’s first interception late in the first quarter led to Willis’ first touchdown with Belton capitalizing on a short field. He then added a 77-yarder on the fourth play of Belton’s next drive, one play after a critical pass interference call on a third-down play.

Tied at 14, Guillory fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return, and Willis scored on the next play, giving Belton a 20-14 lead despite a blocked extra point.

“First quarter, we had the ideas of good things, thinking we were going to have a good night,” Utz said. “Lloyd, at quarterback, did a nice job. The offense was still clicking, and then in this game, momentum is a huge thing.”

A gamble on a fourth-and-one led to Belton’s fourth straight touchdown, and a 27-yard field goal from Parker Lacina with 2 seconds left in the first half provided the only reprieve. Down 27-17, Platte County went three-and-out on its opening possession of the third quarter, and Guillory fumbled a fair catch attempt after the defense forced a critical stopped.

Belton scored on the next four possessions. Willie Smith’s 2-yard touchdown run for Platte County early in the fourth quarter answered a 21-yard field goal and a 24-yard score for Willis in the third quarter. Belton added Willis’ sixth rushing touchdown a Bart Harris touchdown pass to Justus Shaw on a fourth down play off of Lockett’s third interception to close out the scoring.

Platte County trailed by two or more scores for the final 28-plus minutes in giving up 50 points after allowing only 71 total during the 5-0 start.

“We’ve got to get the team together — get them back playing as one, playing with one heart,” Lockett said. “We didn’t play with one heart. We didn’t play as a team. We didn’t play Platte County football tonight.”