Just once, Derek Kohler wants Platte County to take the ball at the start of a game.
Predictably, the Pirates won the toss Friday, Sept. 9 at Pirate Stadium and elected to defer to the second half, leaving the star senior left tackle to lament the decision again. Kohler ended up getting his wish anyway when junior Parker Lacina’s well-placed pooch kick helped generate an extra possession.
Platte County fell on the loose ball and turned it into a touchdown in just 15 seconds. From there, the Pirates’ defense went about creating ample opportunities for the offense, forcing 10 turnovers in a 49-0 dismantling of No. 2-ranked Harrisonville.
The seven fumble recoveries for No. 6 Platte County tied for third in state history for a single game.
“We did get the ball,” Kohler said. “Defense really stepped up tonight. We’ve got their back some nights; they’ve got our backs some nights. They just stepped up tonight, turnovers left and right.”
Platte County (3-1) impressively rebounded from a loss the previous week to Class 5 No. 2 Staley when the defense allowed 55 points.
Harrisonville (3-1) committed turnovers on three of its first four offensive snaps after failing to field the opening kickoff. The Pirates built up a 36-0 halftime lead with almost the entire first half played in Harrisonville's end of the field.
Platte County's first 29 plays were run in the Wildcats' territory, and the turnovers quickly became hard to keep track of for the home team. Pirates junior safety Kobe Cummings grabbed the first fumble recovery, and Hunter Tongate had a pair in the first half.
Kevin Neal grabbed both of Platte County's interceptions along with a fumble recovery, which came moments after sophomore defensive end Peyton Stoner corralled a loose ball. Austin Shoemaker, a senior linebacker, also grabbed the first of his two fumble recoveries in the first half.
“One turnover just sparks everything, like a bomb,” said Neal, who recorded an interception in each of Platte County’s first two wins and now has four in four games this season. “Offense starts going. Defense comes back out, and we just want more.”
Despite all of Harrisonville’s miscues, Platte County didn’t come close to taking advantage of all of them.
Following the pooch kick recovery, Platte County quarterback Justin Mitchell hit John Watts for 35 yards down to the Harrisonville 1. Michael McNair, a senior running back, plowed in on the next play for a 7-0 Pirates’ lead.
Tongate fell on the loose ball on Harrisonville’s first play, and Mitchell went into the end zone on a 7-yard quarterback draw just 1 minute, 39 seconds into the first quarter.
And then the score became stuck at 13-0. Harrisonville committed turnovers on the first four possessions, including back-to-back picks for Neal. The first came one play after Mitchell threw his first pick, and Neal’s second came one play before Mitchell threw his second, giving the Wildcats a glimmer of hope despite the disastrous start.
“We looked at it and thought, ‘You know what? They’re such a good team, they’re going to quit making these mistakes,’” Platte County coach Bill Utz said. “We had chances to put more points on the board, and they made some great plays to keep us out of the end zone, so credit to them.
“And knowing the type of offense they run and the type of team they are, we were fearful they would get things going to where it would come back to haunt us.”
On the final possession of the first quarter, Harrisonville managed to go three-and-out before punting.
Cummings returned the kick 53 yards, injuring Wildcats star running back Morgan Selemaea’s left shoulder on the play as he tried to make the tackle. A short drive led to Lacina’s 35-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
Harrisonville only punted once more in the first half, a kick that led to McNair’s second touchdown run — a 32-yarder around left end on fourth-and-2 with 3:24 left in the second quarter. The last two of eight first half turnovers also led to touchdowns in the final 1:38 of the half.
Shoemaker’s fumble recovery set up McNair’s third touchdown overall and his second from 1 yard out. Tongate’s second fumble recovery, which came two plays after McNair put the Pirates up 29-0, led to a score three plays later — a 21-yard pass to sophomore Dylan Gilbert for his first career touchdown — with 40.8 seconds left in the half.
One play prior, Watts appeared to have hauled in a 21-yard score that the official ruled out of bounds in the back left corner. He ended up with just one catch and failed to tally a receiving touchdown for the first time this season.
Having grabbed eight turnovers and established a 36-0 lead, the top-10 matchup was all but over going into halftime.
“No one ever has this scenario,” Utz said. “If they say they do, they’re lying.”
With the running clock in effect to start the second half, Platte County started and finished quickly.
TJ Guillory, the Pirates’ senior leading wide receiver, caught a pass on the second play of the third quarter and turned it into a catch-and-run TD of 51 yards. Shoemaker grabbed a fumble recovery on the final play of the third quarter, and sophomore defensive back Nolan Saale grabbed an interception in the fourth quarter for Harrisonville quarterback Brandon Eickhorst’s eighth turnover of the game.
Platte County backup quarterback Tanner Clarkson turned the possession into a 2-yard touchdown for the final points.
“It was crazy,” Neal said. “We were expecting a tight, competitive game and came out with that mindset. The score took care of itself.”
Harrisonville, which received a first-place vote in last week’s Class 4 media poll, actually ended up with more time of possession but managed just 149 yards even when holding on to the ball.
Platte County slipped one spot in the rankings to No. 6 after last week’s 55-42 loss to high-powered Staley. The Pirates quickly made a bigger statement in dismantling the Wildcats, moving up to a season-best rank of No. 3 — passing Harrisonville and two teams that posted wins in Week 4 (3-1 Carl Junction and 4-0 St. Dominic).
“This is our statement game,” Kohler said. “Now this is over. Enjoy it, but we’ve got to worry about Belton next week.”
Belton, winners of two straight, won last year’s meeting in the first game Platte County played without Mitchell following his season-ending shoulder injury. The remainder of the regular season features four Blue Division games, including Raytown South and nemesis Kearney (4-0, ranked No.1 in Class 4) in the finale, plus a matchup with Liberty (4-0), a resurgent Class 5 program.