Unsurprisingly, Platte County’s record-setting senior class produced four players who announced destinations to continue their football career on national signing day.
In a break from tradition, the school held a signing ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 1 at the Wilson Center for Performing Arts inside Platte County High School, bringing the group back together to celebrate almost three months after the season ended. The Pirates went 8-4 with a 49-0 win over Class 4 state champion Harrisonville to earn the No. 7 spot in the final Class 4 rankings.
The signees included a Division I-bound lineman (Derek Kohler), two record-setting standouts headed to Division II schools (Kevin Neal and TJ Guillory) and a hard-working utility senior who found an NAIA home (Carter Nugent).
“It was a great ride, and we’ve been life-long friends,” Neal said. “It’s just fun that I’ve been with my friends through this process.”
Kohler garnered national attention after becoming a unanimous first team selection at offensive line on the Missouri media and Missouri Football Coaches Association (MFCA) all-state lists. Committed early to Missouri State, he stuck with the Bears, becoming a part of the Division I-FCS school’s 2017 recruiting class.
Now a two-time all-state pick, Kohler along with seniors Austin Gammill and Casey Jumps, was a three-year starter for a remarkably consistent offensive line. All three started 35 consecutive games with Kohler manning the left-tackle spot.
Platte County’s offense averaged nearly 40 points per game this year, scoring at least 30 in all 12 and topping 40 in six games, while putting up nearly 400 yards of offense per game. At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Kohler headed up the line and was a Bobby Bell Award finalist — given to the best small class lineman/linebacker in the Kansas City Metro — in addition to an All-Simone team member.
The All-Simone team recognizes the top players in the Kansas City Metro area.
“Staying close to family is a big part (of why I chose Missouri State), and it felt like a second family down there,” Kohler said of his choice. “Honestly, I didn’t think I would be big enough for Division I but then my first offer came from South Dakota and more D-Is kind of followed. And then once that Missouri State offer came and I got down on campus, I knew that was where I was going to be.”
Guillory chose William Jewell in Liberty, Mo. to continue his career.
Platte County’s passing game put up 220 yards per game with Guillory grabbing a career-high 51 catches for 882 yards — both team-highs. The 5-8 speedster’s 10 receiving touchdowns ranked second behind junior John Watts’ 11.
Guillory finished his career with 129 receptions, becoming Platte County’s all-time leader in that category after passing current assistant coach Todd Jaros’ mark of 120 in a Class 4 District 8 semifinal win against Smithville. Guillory ended up with 2,012 career receiving yards, 1 ahead of Kyle Knox for second and just 48 behind Jaros’ school record mark of 2,060.
This past season, Guillory set career game-highs for catches (10 vs. Kearney), yards (157 at Staley) and touchdowns (three at Winnetonka). He was a first-team all-state selection on the media’s list.
Neal made the second team on both all-state lists and plans to continue his career at Washburn in Topeka, Kan.
A versatile defensive back, Neal started three seasons and ended up with a career year as a senior, making 95 tackles — second on the team in that category. He also had seven of his school-record 14 interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
Neal had 199 total tackles in three seasons and said the staff at Washburn wants him to try out for all five secondary spots in the Ichabods’ 4-2-5 defense. Washburn competes in the MIAA, home to the two-time defending national champion Northwest Missouri State.
“I love to compete. It’s always been my thing,” Neal said. “It’s just cool to go in the best D-II conference. It’s an honor.”
Nugent ended up choosing Ottawa (Kan.) but doesn’t yet know where he will profile with the Braves.
A three-year contributor, Nugent’s journey at Platte County ended up unique. He served as backup quarterback in his sophomore season and completed all four of his pass attempts for 37 yards. He shifted to receiver as a junior and had four catches for 35 yards and a two-point conversion reception in a memorable comeback win at St. Joseph Central.
The No. 4 target in this year’s explosive passing game, Nugent set career-highs with 19 catches for 168 yards, while also serving as holder for junior kicker Parker Lacina’s all-state season.
“It was just about finding the right fit for me and somewhere I thought I could go and succeed,” Nugent said. “I think me being able to do a lot of different things will help me. Whatever I can do at the next level, I’ll do.”
Goettling also came up with an NAIA home two days after attending the signing ceremony in the audience.
A two-year contributor, Goettling started all season as a senior at cornerback. He ended up with 29 tackles, one forced fumble and three passes defensed, while returning his lone interception for a memorable 70-yard touchdown in an early blowout win of Oak Park.
Goettling made seven tackles in four games as a junior.
Platte County’s senior class included seven three-year starters who helped the Pirates accrue a 25-10 record from 2014-2016. Each of the final two seasons ended with losses to Kearney in the Class 4 District 8 title game with the Bulldogs going onto the state title game both times.