RAYTOWN, Mo. — Platte County’s defense proved a point long before exiting the field Friday, Sept. 29, but don’t think the final touchdown didn’t hurt a little.
Raytown South reserve running back Sincere Grimes raced 94 yards for a meaningless touchdown in the final quarter to avoid a shutout. Platte County settled for a dominant 31-7 victory in a Suburban Conference Blue Division matchup at Raytown South High School, extending the Pirates’ winning streak to four straight.
Prior to the late touchdown run, Raytown South managed just 160 yards of offense on the first 59 snaps.
“We play 100 percent every down,” Platte County senior defensive lineman Chase Blankenship said. “We don’t let anything outside of the box. We play for our teammates; we play for each other. It’s all in our hearts.”
An increased pass rush has fueled the run of wins for Platte County since a Week 3 loss to Staley.
No one has come up bigger for the Pirates than Blankenship, an undersized spark plug who rotates between defensive end and defensive tackle. He recorded one of their six sacks and two tackles for loss in the win over Raytown South.
Blankenship, senior Michael Smith (3½ sacks), senior Sage Smart and junior Peyton Stoner have started rotating through three-man fronts, while Platte County utilizes senior linebackers Dakota Schmidt (13 tackles) and Kobe Cummings (10 tackles, 1½ sacks, three tackles for loss) and others on blitzes to disrupt opposing offenses. In the best performance since a pair of early season blowouts against Grandview and Oak Park, the Pirates’ nearly notched their first shutout of the year.
“We’re all family,” Blankenship said. “We play as if we’re brothers because we basically are. I feel really good about the results that are coming out of what we’re putting in.”
The defensive performance helped make up for Platte County’s out-of-sync offense. The Pirates scored on their opening possession but committed turnovers on the next two, requiring a pair of early stops to maintain the lead.
A sack on Raytown South’s first possession forced a punt, and Platte County drove 46 yards in seven plays. Devin Richardson, a senior wide receiver caught three passes on the drive, while junior Dylan Gilbert finished it with a 6-yard touchdown catch.
Clarkson, who went 17-for-29 for 154 yards coming off back-to-back 300-yard career-high showings in wins over Belton and Liberty, threw an interception on Platte County’s second drive and was stripped in the pocket on the third.
In both instances, Raytown South failed to take advantage. The Cardinals’ drives off the turnovers ended in three-and-outs with a sack contributing to the first stop.
Platte County opened the game with senior Matt Blaha at left tackle, while senior Matthew Knopp took over his spot at left tackle. Max Renner, a sophomore who had split time with Knopp early in the season, started between senior center Trevor Tietz and junior left tackle Reid Sutter.
The changes came in the wake of a knee injury to junior left tackle Glen Gammill, who went out late in regulation of the overtime win against Liberty.
“Me and Knopp really got some chemistry going tonight, and we only got one week of practice; we don’t get a whole season,” said Blaha, who had never taken a snap at left tackle before taking Gammill’s spot in overtime a week earlier. “We get to go against (Smith) all week in practice so I’m sure that will help.”
A pair of big plays on special teams helped Platte County pull away.
Still down 7-0 late in the first half, Raytown South’s Reaud Hall mishandled a punt deep in his own territory, and Schmidt recovered at the Cardinals’ 14. Clarkson hit Richardson two plays later for a 14-yard touchdown to double the advantage to 14-0 at halftime.
Richardson led all Platte County receivers with seven catches for 82 yards and scored his team-leading ninth touchdown of the season — at least one in all six games he’s played.
Schmidt continued his run of big plays that have included a special teams touchdown in a comeback against Belton two weeks ago and the first offensive touchdown of his career on a short reception against Liberty. He also leads the Pirates in tackles.
“Dakota’s a special player for us,” Platte County coach Bill Utz said. “When plays are there to be made, he makes them, and the nice thing is the other guys go with that mentality and enthusiasm he brings.”
Out of halftime, Platte County drove down and settled for a 27-yard Parker Lacina field goal to make it 17-0.
A sack for Smith stopped Raytown South’s opening drive, and the Pirates needed eight plays and three offsides penalties to go 40 yards. They tried establishing the run in the second half with mixed results, but senior running back Gavin Hardman, who finished with just 23 yards, capped that drive with a 1-yard scoring run to make it 24-0.
Adel Freitek, a junior, led Platte County in rushing with 46 yards on 10 carries.
The final touchdown for Platte County came on Lacina’s second missed field goal of the second half. He lined up for a 52-yard attempt with less than 7 minutes to go and hit the kick so short that Raytown South tried to field it and couldn’t control it.
The play resulted in a fumble recovery for Platte County, and Clarkson scored on a 1-yard keeper. The non-traditional touchdowns helped the Pirates keep control despite gaining just 255 yards of offense.
“Every time we play Ray South, it is ugly,” Utz said, “because they’re so talented. What we try to be really good at, they’re really good at taking it away. What it does is it takes away our strength and shuts it down so now we’ve got to go to what we don’t do as much and that makes it an ugly game.
“As I told the kids, ‘I’ll take this score any day of the week any time,’ so I’m good with it.”
Platte County (6-1) remained at No. 4 in the most recent Missouri media Class 4 poll and retained the top spot in the Class 4 District 8 standings. The Pirates now host Winnetonka (1-6) with an obvious need to avoid looking ahead.
In Week 9, Platte County travels to Kearney for its annual rivalry game, looking to end a lengthy losing streak to the Bulldogs. After moving up to No. 2 in the District 8 standings ahead of unbeaten Smithville, Kearney (6-1) plays Class 5 No. 2-ranked Staley (7-0) this week.
Kearney has two wins over Platte County in each of the past two seasons, including both postseason matchupus in the District 8 title game. This year’s meeting in the regular season finale likely will help determine the No. 1 seed for the eight-team bracket.
“We’ve just got to calm ourselves down,” Blaha said. “I think this week will help us, and we have to get back on track vs. Winnetonka and take care of business.”