When frustration boiled over for the players, Reis Wright took the opportunity to give a reminder about the culture he wants to develop.
North Platte’s first-year coach couldn’t do much about the scoreboard late in the third quarter, but he didn’t want to see a lack of sportsmanship in the final minutes. Mid-Buchanan rolled to a 49-0 win in KCI Conference play on Friday, Sept. 14 at North Platte High School, and the Panthers learned another tough lesson as Wright continues the process of building a winner’s mentality at a program where consistent success has been elusive.
North Platte dropped to 1-3 overall with a daunting slate of league games left, but as emotions led to some unnecessary outbursts, Wright took a timeout to deliver a message — one heard loud and clear in the team huddle.
“Look, it’s an emotional game, but there are right and wrong ways to react to things,” Wright said. “Frustration built, and they kind of felt like they couldn’t get much accomplished, which is reasonable thinking, but you have to overcome that and keep grinding.
“We wear ‘Together-Best’ down our spine. That’s who we are. That’s what we try to live by. All decisions need to be made from my end down to the freshman class with that in mind.”
Mid-Buchanan (3-1, 1-1 KCI) benefitted from six total touchdowns for sophomore quarterback Javan Noyes, and a running clock was in effect for most of the second half.
Coming off a KCI win the week prior over Plattsburg, North Platte ended up having to play junior Blake Gibson and senior Joe DeMarcus — both normally wide receivers — at quarterback after junior Andrew Hernandez suffered a left wrist injury just before halftime. Mid-Buchanan’s lead hit 35, 42 and 49 in the second half, and North Platte slowly subbed in younger reserves, who gained some valuable playing time.
North Platte junior Dayne Carpenter played on both lines and grabbed a late fumble recovery, while freshman J.P. Hartigan worked in at fullback and made four tackles at middle linebacker. Hernandez and junior Ty French led the Panthers defense with eight tackles each, while junior Caine Huffman added seven.
“That second half, when we had our young guys in there, that’s what football’s about,” Wright said. “That’s why you play the game. You play the game for fun. You have fun, and we had a severe lack of fun until those young guys got in there. That was a breath of fresh air to just watch those freaking guys go.
“I’m proud as heck of those guys.”
Early on, Mid-Buchanan used designed quarterback runs for Noyes to slash up the field but later added in zone-read looks and trap plays for the running backs to keep North Platte off balance.
Noyes capped the opening drive with a 3-yard touchdown plunge up the middle and added a 10-yard scoring pass to Christian Scaggs after forcing the Panthers into a quick three-and-out. Officials wiped a third touchdown off the board when they ruled Dragons senior running back Caleb Kirschner down at the 1-yard line.
Originally, touchdown was signaled while North Platte junior Zach Beatty picked up the loose ball at the conclusion of the play.
Instead of a score or a turnover, Mid-Buchanan retained possession, but a fumbled exchange on the next snap gave North Platte a chance.
Hernandez recovered the ball coming up from his safety spot. North Platte junior running back Joel Smyser gained the Panthers’ first first down a sweep play during the ensuing drive, but Mid-Buchanan forced another punt and then scored on each of its final two drives — the second a clock-eating possession concluding with Noyes’ second rushing touchdown and fourth score of the first half.
Noyes ended up throwing for 175 yards and rushing for 93 in coach Aaron Fritz’s diverse offense, which Wright credited with keeping his defense off balance.
“When they were up two or three scores, it got us thinking too much, over reacting,” Wright said. “There’s a lot of things you can do when you get things going (on offense) and a defense starts thinking, thinking, thinking instead of just reading and reacting and playing the assignments. Then big things happen. We did hold them to some fourth downs but then let them convert them. That’s just the way it was.”
Leading a drive in the final 51 seconds, Hernandez took North Platte near midfield with some scrambles and a short completion before he went down on the visiting sideline with the injured wrist.
Gibson took the majority of the second half snaps, but the offense continued to stall. Noyes added two more touchdowns in the third quarter, and sophomore running back Kaden Anderson capped the scoring with a 9-yard run late in the third quarter.
Dropping to 1-1 in KCI play, North Platte now faces a closing stretch of the schedule that includes four ranked conference foes. The Panthers play at Class 2 No. 4-ranked Lawson this week before the annual rivalry game with West Platte on Friday, Sept. 28 in Weston, Mo.
The final three weeks of the regular season for North Platte will be vs. Class 2 No. 3 Lathrop, at Class 1 No. 2 East Buchanan and vs. Class 1 No. 10 Hamilton.
Wright understands the challenge in his first year since coming over from Carrollton, a Class 2 Missouri River Valley Conference school. He will continue to face the challenge with a mix of positivity, energy and philosophy.
“I come from the MRVC and that’s not a pattycake league either, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “I knew I was leaving one great conference coming into another great conference. Playing good teams isn’t anything new to me, but yeah, it’s a darn good conference.”