For the second straight year, Platte County attempted to go score-for-score with Staley’s prolific offense in a battle of ranked opponents from different classes.
This time around, Platte County could only supply the answers for a half, and the Falcons pulled away for a 62-27 blowout win Friday, Sept. 1 at Pirate Stadium. The Pirates, who dropped from No. 8 to No. 9 in the Class 4 media rankings with the loss, gave up 798 yards of offense — fifth most in state history according to the Missouri State High School Activities record book.
Platte County (2-1) held an early 14-0 lead, went into halftime down a touchdown and then collapsed during a sequence early in the third quarter.
“Should they be disappointed? Yeah,” Platte County coach Bill Utz said. “Absolutely they should be disappointed. At the same time, it’s not a bad loss. I’ll give them the credit they deserve. They’re a good team, and we did some good things. But we also did some things we’ve got to learn from.”
Staley (3-0), ranked No. 2 in Class 5, didn’t lead until late in the second quarter and continually hit on big plays to pull away.
John Raybourn’s second touchdown pass went 94 yards to Mark Robinson, who ran away from the Platte County defense to put the Falcons up 34-27 with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first half. The Pirates responded with a drive, but senior quarterback Tanner Clarkson’s short Hail Mary at the end of the half ended up intercepted.
Staley received the opening kickoff of the second half, and on the fourth play after an initial first down, senior wide receiver Rod Criss III took a pitch left on a jet sweep and raced 77 yards for a touchdown. Clarkson and senior running back Gavin Hardman fumbled an exchange on the very next play for Platte County, and three plays after Staley recovered, Raybourn hit Zach Elam for a 23-yard touchdown to make it 48-27 just 1:55 into the third quarter.
“The wheels kind of came off,” Utz said.
Already in a pass-first mode, Platte County scrambled to try and find a big play.
Clarkson, who finished 18-for-38 for 309 yards in his third career start, completed four passes on the next drives — three to senior wide receiver John Watts — and drove the Pirates to Staley’s 17. The Falcons held then made it a four-touchdown lead on Jaden Moss’ 49-yard touchdown run.
Staley scored on each of its first four possessions of the second half to start the running clock with a 62-27 lead and 1:52 left in the third quarter.
“We got exposed,” Utz said. “Their offensive and defensive lines are good, and ours haven’t quite gelled yet. They manhandled the line of scrimmage.”
The two teams combined to run 128 plays after a frenetic start to the anticipated matchup.
Platte County took the opening kickoff — a factor that became big late in the first half — and senior Kobe Cummings took it 55 yards into Staley territory. On the first play, Clarkson hit Watts in one-on-one press coverage for a 26-yard touchdown despite a pass interference call against Staley.
Up 7-0 after just 18 seconds, Platte County then forced the first of four Staley punts to take possession back.
Watts — a 6-foot-4 speedster — continued to face single coverage on the next drive, and Clarkson hit him for 61 yards and then a 21-yard touchdown on consecutive plays to put the Pirates up 14-0 with just 2:50 off the clock.
“It was a great, a good way to start,” Utz said. “But a team like that, you know that’s not going to last. You bottle that up the best you can as often as you can, but at the same time, you know they’re going to make plays. They’ve got great kids over there. They better make plays.”
Staley also punted on its second possession, but Platte County went three-and-out and missed a key chance to extend the lead. The Falcons ended up scoring on five of their next seven drives in the first half, while finally forcing some stops to erase the early deficit.
Down 21-14 after Criss threw a solid wide receiver pass for a 74-yard touchdown to JD Benbow, Platte County answered with an eight-play touchdown drive aided by a pass interference penalty.
Cummings — a standout for two years at defensive back — came back in on offense and provided a 20-yard reception before hauling in a highlight 32-yard catch down the visitor’s sideline. The second of his three catches overall, which totaled 82 yards, set up Clarkson’s 15-yard scoring pass to senior Devin Richardson, his sixth TD catch in three games.
After a stop, Platte County marched down again, and Cummings caught a 30-yard touchdown despite interference on the play. A blocked extra point gave the Pirates’ their final lead at 27-21 with 4:12 left in the half.
“It was good that we kept fighting in the first half,” said Platte County senior Dakota Schmidt, who tied with junior safety Nolan Saale for the team-lead in tackles with nine. “If we can find that in the second half and build on that for the rest of the season, it’s going to be good for our success.”
Raybourn hit Elam for an 80-yard touchdown on the next play, and Platte County senior JP Post blocked the extra point to keep the score tied momentarily. The Pirates were unable to move the ball, and Staley scored on the next play to take the lead for good.
Platte County held the ball twice in the final 3:18 but couldn’t produce a score, and Staley took the ball and control of the game to start the third quarter.
Clarkson upped his touchdown pass total to 14 in three games but also threw three interceptions while facing heavy pressure from a stout defensive line. He entered without a turnover during the Pirates’ two easy wins to open the season.
Watts totaled nine catches for 168 yards — both just off his career-highs set last year in a win over Liberty.
While Platte County threw the ball well at times, the Pirates ended up with negative yards rushing in the first true test for an offense that put up 45 and then 42 points in blowouts of Grandview and Oak Park. Meanwhile, Staley threw for 366 and ran for 432 in a second straight strong offensive performance in the series.
Staley won last year’s high-scoring meeting 49-35.
“We’ve got to get back to work,” Utz said. “It doesn’t get a whole lot easier. We’ve got the defending state champs (this week). We have to move on. If you dwell on it, then it’s bad things.”
Platte County faces a quick turnaround with a trip to Class 4 No. 6-ranked Harrisonville, the defending state champions.
Last season, Platte County triumphed 49-0 behind a record 10 turnovers forced in a matchup of state-ranked foes. The Wildcats recovered from the loss and some injuries and went on to claim the title with avictory in the Class 4 Show-Me Bowl over Kearney.
Harrisonville enters off of a loss to Pittsburg (Kan.) last week, dropping the Wildcats to (2-1).