DEARBORN, Mo. — North Platte continued to show the potential for good spells of play, especially when the Panthers hold on to the ball.
Playing in adverse conditions for a second straight week, North Platte committed three turnovers in a nonconference matchup with Princeton on Friday, Aug. 26 at North Platte High School. The miscues led to 12 unanswered points for the visiting Tigers, who opted to wait out delays of about 2½ hours to get the game finished without a postponement.
North Platte closed with 30 unanswered points in the second half of a 46-12 victory. The Panthers improved to 1-1, one week after a weather-postponed loss to Gallatin that featured five turnovers.
“The end of last week had a lot of hurt,” said North Platte senior running back/linebacker Parker Rotterman, who ran for two touchdowns in the win over Princeton. “I knew we were a lot better football team than we showed, and coming out here and showing this week, I think we proved a lot of people wrong. People know that’s a fluke now, and we’re not the old North Platte at all.”
Citizens brought in gas-powered pumps to help remove puddled water from the northeast corner of the field after heavy thunderstorms — complete with a tornado warning — passed through the area just prior to the scheduled kickoff at 7 p.m.
North Platte senior running back Ben French opened the scoring on North Platte’s first possession with a long touchdown run and added another lengthy jaunt to the end zone to start the third quarter. He helped the Panthers pile up 442 rushing yards against the Tigers, unable to slow down a three-headed attack in the sloppy conditions.
Coming off a breakthrough 5-7 season, North Platte needed to replace most of its offensive starters with just two nonconference games to prepare for the KCI Conference season. The two-week stretch ended with one blowout loss and one blowout win with a home game vs. Mid-Buchanan set to open the league slate on Friday, Sept. 2.
North Platte second-year coach Josh Rodriguez believes the Week 1 result could’ve been different without the turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns. That progress of the program in his short tenure showed against Princeton.
“I think the team has the capability to play this way every week,” North Platte coach Josh Rodriguez said. “We didn’t treat it like a must-win game, but I think the kids kind of felt that way. Every week in the KCI is tough. Last year, we didn’t win a KCI game until the last week of the season, and they’re not dumb. They know our schedule is pretty tough so this was a big win for them.”
Due to the turnovers against Gallatin, North Platte’s new-look offense received limited chances to operate in the
French, Rotterman and junior fullback Remington Wilson took turns gashing Princeton for big chunks of yardage in Week 2. The Panthers were efficient in averaging 10.5 yards per carry, starting with French’s 66-yard touchdown on the second play of their opening possession after forcing a three-and-out from Princeton to start the game.
Rotterman scored the first of his two touchdowns to cap North Platte’s second drive, and two successful two-point conversions put the Panthers up 16-0. They wouldn’t score again in the first half, committing turnovers on three straight possessions to allow Princeton a way back into the game.
“Turnovers are a big deal,” said French, who ran for a team-high 272 yards and three touchdowns. “You give the ball away, and you’re letting your chances down on winning the game.”
North Platte actually forced the first turnover on the first of two interceptions for senior defensive back Tony Martin after defensive lineman Bart Owens applied pressure and forced Princeton quarterback Andrew Smith to throw an errant pass. A fumbled snap on the nextplay gave the ball back to the Tigers, and they capitalized on the short field to close within 16-6.
North Platte quarterback Austin Snook, who attempted just six passes, then threw an interception, leading to a long touchdown run for Calvin Berwanger. A fumbled exchange between Snook and French didn’t result in points for Princeton, and the Panthers went into halftime up 16-12 but seemingly without the momentum.
French changed that on the first play after the second half kickoff.
Taking a pitch left, he cut back to the right and up the middle for a 63-yard touchdown and a 22-12 lead just 9 seconds into the third quarter. A snap over Smith’s head late in the third quarter resulted in a safety, and Princeton never recovered.
French capped his big-play day going 23 yards up the middle off of another toss play on the resulting possession for a 32-12 lead with 1:43 left in the third quarter.
“Parker and Remington and me, we’re equal backs,” French said. “We can all run the ball, but I like to be that back that gets our team going.”
North Platte junior defensive back Corbin Green grabbed a pick early in the fourth quarter, returning it down the home sideline before a tackler sent him sprawling through the wet grass and kicking up a wave of water. Rotterman, who ran for 110 yards on just six carries, capped a short drive with a 22-yard touchdown run.
Wilson’s longest run of the night, a 16-yarder, capped the scoring with 2:03 to go in what turned into a dominant effort.
“I kind of knew how my teammates can play, and I know what they’re capable of,” Rotterman said. “If I get in their rear a little, they’ll step it up, and they’ll play. We’ve got a lot of young kids, but I know they know how to play football. And they know they’ve got the heart to play when they want to.”
French, Rotterman and Wilson not only headline the offense but also the defense. North Platte’s three starting linebackers made 12 tackles apiece in the victory.
Wellington-Napoleon 36, West Platte 6
The Tigers scored the final five touchdowns of a nonconference matchup Friday, Aug. 26 at the new Rudolph Eskridge Stadium.
West Platte split its first two games entering KCI Conference play, which starts this week with a trip to East Buchanan. Those two teams will now be paired in Class 1 District 7, along with Wellington-Napoleon in an eight-team field that looks much improved.
Nick Miller, West Platte’s senior quarterback, completed just 4 of 10 passes for 18 yards, but a 4-yarder to Grant Eagen put the Bluejays up 6-0 after the first quarter.
From there, Wellington-Napoleon used big plays to take the win.
Tigers quarterback Trey Shannon completed touchdown passes of 47 and 38 yards to Duncan Hughes, while Jordan Hill added a 56-yard touchdown run. Hill finished with a game-high 133 yards rushing and a pair of scores.
All 36 of Wellington-Napoleon’s points came in the second and third quarters with Shannon capping the big plays with a 54-yard fumble return for a touchdown. The Bluejays committed three turnovers and didn’t force any.
West Platte senior Kyle Tabaka again led the offense from his fullback spot, rushing for 72 yards, while Brayan Rodriguez added 38 on 14 carries. Eagen caught two passes for 17 yards.
Thanks to a win against Class 3 Central Academy of Excellence in Week 1, West Platte (1-1) holds the No. 2 spot in the District 7 standings after two games. Wellington-Napoleon holds the top spot as the only undefeated team out of eight.
West Platte sits ahead of five other 1-1 teams, including East Buchanan — coming off an 8-0 overtime loss to Bishop LeBlond last week. The Bulldogs dropped back down from Class 2 to Class 1 this season after playing in back-to-back district title games.