Going into the huddle, JP Post knew where he wanted the throw to go.
Platte County’s senior cornerback received a rare chance to play on offense in the first half Friday, Aug. 25 against Oak Park and responded with a strong touchdown catch. Post’s third career touchdown — first on offense — turned out to be just the starting point for a career game in a 42-7 victory at Pirate Stadium.
Two plays later, Post grabbed the first of two interceptions that also led to first half touchdowns in a second straight blowout win for Platte County to start the season.
“I enjoyed it a lot,” said Post, who scored touchdowns on a blocked punt (at Liberty) and a fumble recovery (vs. Smithville) as a junior. “But it’s more about how the team does and how the team does coming out.”
For a second straight week, Platte County needed only one half from the starters.
Tanner Clarkson, a senior, topped 200 yards passing again in his second career start at quarterback and threw four more touchdowns, bringing his season total to 10. Devin Richardson, a first-year starter, hauled in two more touchdown catches and brought his season totals to seven catches and five scores in four quarters of action for the Pirates.
Now comes the first real test for Platte County, which moved into the Class 4 media rankings at No. 8 after the win over Oak Park.
For the second straight year, Staley (2-0) comes into the Week 3 matchup with Platte County unbeaten and with a top 10 ranking in Class 5. The Falcons — a state semifinalist last year — sit at No. 3 entering their trip to Pirate Stadium on Friday, Sept. 1.
Staley prevailed 49-35 last season in an offensive showcase that featured a lot of since-graduated Falcons running back Julian Ross. While Platte County enters as the underdog again, last year’s result won’t be lost on the returning players nor first-year contributors looking for a measure of revenge.
“I think we’ve done a nice job of building this thing not just one year at a time but making it more of a team year in, year out,” Platte County coach Bill Utz said. “They remember it. A lot of those kids played, so that’s not a situation that they forget easily. They’re competitive kids; they know what’s going on.”
While the Staley matchup already loomed, Platte County needed to avoid a letdown against rebuilding Oak Park (0-2), now led by former Liberty North head coach Ken Clemens.
The Pirates were up 14-0 after two drives in the first quarter when Utz and the coaching staff sent in an offensive formation that included Post at wide receiver and senior safety Kobe Cummings and senior linebacker Dakota Schmidt in the backfield. After a long run from Cummings, Post ran an out route toward the home sideline, and Clarkson lofted a pass to him all the way from the left hash marks.
Post hauled in the pass behind Oak Park defensive back Jed Templin and stumbled into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown to make it 21-0 late in the first quarter.
“I kept telling Tanner all week that if I get in offense, just throw it to me,” said Post, who moved into a starting cornerback role midway through his sophomore season but now has one catch on offense each of the past three seasons. “He threw it to me, and it ended up working out.”
Two plays later, Post read a rollout from Oak Park quarterback Blake Bland and broke on a pass to grab an interception at the Northmen 19-yard line. Clarkson made the turnover into a touchdown two plays later, increasing the Pirates’ lead to 28-0 on a 14-yard pass to 6-foot-4 senior wide receiver John Watts — who had three catches for 60 yards and now has a score in each of the first two games.
Platte County punted just once in the first half and led 35-0 when Oak Park mounted its first drive into Pirates’ territory late in the second quarter.
A long completion plus a roughing the passer call on a third-and-seven put Oak Park at Platte County’s 33 with 2 minutes to play. On the next snap, Post picked off Bland near the goal line to return possession to the Pirates with 1:32 left in the first half.
Clarkson then hit Watts (three catches, 60 yards) for a 38-yard completion to move Platte County off its own goal line, and after an incompletion, Clarkson found Richardson streaking down the seam alone. A well-placed pass created a 61-yard touchdown and put Platte County up 42-0, assuring the starters could rest after halftime.
Overall, Clarkson threw for 263 yards, and he’s now completed 21 of 27 passes for 475 yards in two games with nearly half the completions going for scores.
“He’s a kid that hasn’t had a tremendous amount of playing time so that’s one of the concerns,” Utz said. “You think about, ‘How does he react to success?’ And he’s done a nice job with it so far. Every day is a learning curve for him. He’s going to have adversity so the big test will be how he reacts when that shows up.”
Platte County’s defense set the tone from the outset.
An angled kickoff from senior Parker Lacina forced Oak Park to return the ball from the 1, and Platte County senior safety Jackson Phan made a tackle at the 2. After a three-and-out and short punt, the Pirates needed just three plays to score with Clarkson finding Richardson from 11 yards out.
After another quick three-and-out, Clarkson hit Richardson down the visitor’s sideline for what looked like a 49-yard touchdown. Richardson dove into the corner of the end zone, but an official ruled he stepped out at the 1, making the senior’s fifth catch of the season his first not to go for a touchdown.
Two plays later, Adel Freitek — a junior running back — scored Platte County’s first rushing touchdown of the season from 2 yards out. The Pirates ended up running for 118 yards with Cummings leading the way at 47 yards on just three carries.
Cummings ran twice on back-to-back plays late in the second quarter — first for 27 yards and then a touchdown from 2 yards out, putting Platte County up 35-0 with his first rushing touchdown since his freshman season.
Freitek (15 yards) and senior Gavin Hardman (28 yards) each carried five times. The run game continues to develop behind an offensive line featuring senior and returning starting guard Matt Blaha plus senior Trevor Tietz (center), junior Reid Sutter (tackle), junior tackle Glen Gammill and sophomore Max Renner (guard).
“Every chance we get, we want to get good yardage (on the ground),” Tietz said. “We trust our running backs. They know what to do, and we just block the guys and try to get the running backs in the end zone.”
Oak Park’s lone touchdown came on the first drive of the second half, and the Northmen finished with just 152 yards of offense — mostly accrued against the reserves.
Schmidt led Platte County’s defense with eight tackles, while senior Michael Smith continued to excel while shifting mostly inside to defensive tackle. He made seven tackles to go with one sack.
Post’s interceptions were his first of the season, and he has now matched his total from both his sophomore and junior years.