Hendricks' late TDs help North Platte football end a pair of losing skids

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo North Platte seniors John Collins, left, and Aron Burke celebrate following North Platte’s 26-13 win against Plattsburg on Friday, Oct. 16 at North Platte High School in Dearborn, Mo. DEARBORN, Mo. — Coming off of a pair of losses that could be considered moral victories, North Platte finally relocated the winning formula and snapped a 12-game KCI Conference losing streak.

North Platte quarterback Anthony Hernandez rolled to his left and found Jordan Hendricks all alone, wide open in the corner of the end zone early in the fourth quarter for a final lead change against Plattsburg on Friday, Oct. 16. Hendricks added a 53-yard touchdown for the final points of a 26-13 come-from-behind victory against the Tigers at North Platte High School.

“I looked at him,” Hernandez said. “I knew he was going to be open. That route was there the entire game. I looked at him. He was all by himself, and it was an easy read.”

North Platte’s last KCI win came in the 2014 opener. The Panthers went on to lose the final six league games last year and the first six this year before downing the defending Class 1 District 7 champions in the regular season finale.

To start district play, North Platte (3-6, 1-6 KCI Conference) earns a quick rematch with Plattsburg (2-7, 1-6 KCI) in an eight-team bracket that looks wide open behind No. 1 seed Wellington-Napoleon. The other seven teams all enter with a losing record, and North Platte ended up with the No. 4 seed and a chance to host the fifth-seeded Tigers.

 BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo North Platte senior Jordan Hendricks points to the sky following his 25-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of the Panthers’  26-13 win against Plattsburg on Friday, Oct. 23 at North Platte High School in Dearborn, Mo.

More importantly, North Platte found a way to end the league losing skid and a six-game losing streak dating to Week 2 of this season against University Academy. The Panthers played close the past two weeks against KCI frontrunners Hamilton and East Buchanan — both state ranked for portions of this season.

“That one in the win column is a really big deal,” North Platte coach Josh Rodriguez said. “It’s nice to have in there. They’ve had a lot of confidence the last two weeks playing a couple of really good teams really close. They know what they are capable of and this is going to enhance that confidence.”

North Platte opened the scoring on a 1-yard plunge from senior running back Aron Burke early in the first quarter, capping a drive on a short field after Panthers defensive back Tristan Roth intercepted Plattsburg quarterback Daniel O’Connor on his first attempt of the game. O’Connor also threw a pick to junior linebacker Ben French on the Tigers’ final play allowing the Panthers to run out the clock on the win.

Plattsburg did take its first lead 2 minutes after Burke’s touchdown when O’Conner took a quarterback sneak in from 2 yards out. Ian Terwilleger nailed the extra point to put the Tigers on top 7-6.

North Platte took the lead into the half after Hernandez found the end zone on a 1-yard sneak with 1:07 on the clock after two big runs from him moved the Panthers into the goal-to-go situation.

Plattsburg briefly regained the lead late in the third quarter when O’Connor found tight end Bradley Gibson on a post pattern and the junior powered into the end zone to complete the 18-yard play with 90 seconds remaining in the third.

North Platte’s winning score came on the next drive.

Hendricks then set up his eventual touchdown with a big return on the ensuing kickoff, setting up the Panthers up at the Tigers’ 35-yard line. Five plays later, North Platte took the lead for good.

“I just knew I had to make a play,” said Hendricks, who ran for 70 yards and added 36 more on two catches. “I trusted (Hernandez) to get me the ball and our line to block for him. I had confidence in myself that I could beat the corner. I can’t even express how happy we were (after the score).”

After a key fourth down stop at midfield, Hendricks went untouched through the right side of the line for a 53-yard touchdown run on the next play to make it a two-possession game at 26-13. Hernandez ended up topping North Platte’s rushing efforts with a season-high 117 yards on 16 attempts after entering the game with 125 yards on the ground in the first eight games.

Another big fourth-down stop and French’s interception maintained the lead.

“We had to (get those stops),” North Platte senior defensive tackle John Collins said. “That’s the game. We got tired of losing. We had to get that ‘W’ for our family, for our coaches. We’ve all worked hard. This win means the world. We were there. We wanted to come with high heads into districts. We thank the Lord, our team, and our coaches for that.”

Lawson 37, West Platte 19

The Bluejays backed into the No. 2 seed for the Class 1 District 7 bracket, dropping their second straight to close the regular season Friday, Oct. 16 in Lawson, Mo.

Lawson took advantage of a fumble on West Platte’s opening possession and then used a big second quarter to create separation. The Bluejays (3-6, 2-5 KCI) never led and never recovered, trailing by as much as 18 in the second half.

Cody Glenn completed the first of his three touchdown passes on the first play after West Platte’s opening fumble, hitting Corbin Menke on an 81-yard touchdown strike. West Platte answered back with a touchdown drive culminating in quarterback Brett Shepardson’s 3-yard run, but the kick failed, leaving the Cardinals with a 7-6 advantage.

The teams traded touchdowns again early in the second quarter — a 31-yard touchdown pass from Glenn to Max Ross and Shepardson’s 43-yard scamper. The Bluejays again failed on the conversion attempt to trail 14-12 late in the second quarter.

Lawson responded again with a 54-yard touchdown pass from Glenn to Adrean Eskew, and after Shepardson threw an interception, the Cardinals added a late field goal to go into halftime up 23-12. Shepardson finished 7 of 12 for 131 yards while rushing for a game-high 243 yards on 29 carries.

Eskew added a touchdown run to open the third quarter scoring, and West Platte couldn’t mount a comeback down three possessions.

Glenn threw for 228 yards on 7-of-14 accuracy. Menke added a 55-yard touchdown run to close the scoring, a big part of his team-high 110 yards on the ground.

West Platte senior running back Justin Rhodes finished with 103 yards rushing, including a 4-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter for West Platte’s final points to temporarily close the gap to 30-19. He also added three catches for 69 yards in the loss.

In the district opener, West Platte draws No. 7 seed Concordia (2-7) at Rudolph Eskeridge Stadium in Weston, Mo. The Bluejays last played at home in Week 7, beating Mid-Buchanan in what turned out to be the matchup for the second seed.

Mid-Buchanan (4-5) hosts No. 6 Lone Jack (3-6) with the winner playing the winner between West Platte and Concordia.