West Platte seemed to have plenty of time only to come up 1 second and 1 yard short. In what turned into a dramatic Class 1 quarterfinal, Hamilton earned a fourth straight trip to the semifinals with a 33-27 win Friday, Nov. 13 at J.C. Penney High School in Hamilton, Mo. The Hornets stopped West Platte senior running back Justin Rhodes on the 1-yard line on the final play, and time expired before the Bluejays could get off the snap for a potential fourth down try.
West Platte drove 71 yards in the final 5 minutes, 7 seconds — converting a fourth-and-long and avoiding any pass attempts in just missing the potential tying or winning score.
“That was a dramatic one,” West Platte coach Nate Danneman said. “We definitely don’t want to throw the ball late. I looked at them and said, ‘We will run it.’ I wish we could’ve got in at the end. It is the game of life and the game of football. Sometime you come up a little short, and you got to keep moving.”
West Platte finished at 6-7 after winning three straight to reach the playoffs for the second time in three years despite a disappointing 2-5 showing in KCI Conference play. The Bluejays’ run ended again with a loss to Hamilton, which beat them twice both in 2013 and 2015 on the way to the state semifinals. Hamilton led 14-7 at halftime before the two teams combined to score on six straight possessions to open the second half.
West Platte ran for 432 yards with Rhodes scoring twice, senior quarterback Brett Shepardson once and junior fullback Kyle Tabaka once. Tabaka’s run came in the first half, while Rhodes scored twice in the third quarter on a pair of 1-yard plunges.
Shepardson’s 44-yard score came just 44 seconds into the fourth quarter and answered Hamilton quarterback Jaran Richman’s third touchdown pass two plays earlier.
West Platte then produced its first and only stop of the second half to take over with more than 5 minutes to play. However, the Bluejays used their final timeout with more than 2 minutes to go, setting up a fourth-and-10 play that resulted in a 24-yard burst from Shepardson off of right tackle.
At the 16, Shepardson then ran for 1, 4 and 8 yards on the next three plays to put the ball at the 3.
Nick Miller came on for the next snap with Shepardson hurt on the third down play. Rhodes went for no gain before Hamilton stopped Shepardson for a 1-yard loss. The final play started with about 20 seconds to go with Rhodes coming up agonizingly short, and with the Bluejays lined up to try again, the ball was not spotted in enough time to allow for another play.
Rhodes finished with 224 yards on 33 carries, while Shepardson went for 179 on the ground in addition to completing 2-of-3 passes for zero yards. Shepardson lined up much of the game as a running back while occasionally still taking direct snaps as a dual threat. Danneman made the move to help beef up the Bluejays’ rushing attack while giving Miller (0-for-1 passing) the majority of the snaps at quarterback.
Tabaka added 29 rushing yards, including his 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to put West Platte up 7-0.
Hamilton (10-3) scored the next 21 unanswered and appeared ready to create a similar result to the Hornets’ 35-8 win in the first meeting of the season between the two teams. That marked West Platte’s third loss in a span of four weeks, and the Bluejays only won once more in the regular season.
The second seed in Class 1 District 7, West Platte reeled off three straight wins against Concordia, Mid-Buchanan and North Platte to get back to .500 and reach the playoffs.