Facing outmatched Winnetonka for the second time in three weeks, Platte County received exactly what it needed in the rematch.
Pirates junior safety Kobe Cummings grabbed an early interception, setting up the first of three first half touchdown runs for senior running back Mike McNair. Platte County scored on each of its first six possessions in addition to a special teams touchdown Friday, Oct. 21 at Pirate Stadium on the way to a 52-14 victory, which was easier than even the lopsided score would indicate.
Coming off an emotional loss to Kearney, Platte County (7-3) made no mistake in the Class 4 District 8 opener just three days after learning of the death of assistant coach Todd Jaros’ 4-year-old son Landon from complications with cancer.
“It was a good thing to come out here and play like we can and take control of the game early,” Platte County senior quarterback Justin Mitchell said, “especially with the situation that happened. We didn’t know how we were going to react in the game, but we came out and took care of business like we should.”
Winnetonka (1-9) opened with the ball and almost immediately deflated its own hopes of an upset bid of the district’s No. 2 seed.
Cummings latched on to a tipped ball and returned his second interception of the season 16 yards to the Griffins’ 9. Two plays later, McNair scored from 1 yard out to put the Pirates up 7-0.
Winnetonka reached Pirates’ territory on the next drive, but after a failed fourth down try, Platte County needed just three more plays to score for the second time. McNair ran right and used a quick jump cut back to the left on a 49-yard dash to the end zone for his second score.
“We talked about coming out and using a little bit of urgency,” Platte County coach Bill Utz said. “I felt like they did that for the most part. Winnetonka was in a very integral area where if they didn’t get early success, this was probably going to happen.
“They’ve had a rough year with some injuries and so forth but shown nothing but class.”
Platte County settled for a 27-yard field goal from junior Parker Lacina on the next drive, adding to his school record for most field goals in a career now at 22.
Winnetonka’s situation worsened on the next three-and-out after Pirates senior linebacker Austin Shoemaker collected his second sack of the season on third down. The Griffins tried to punt but a low kick ended up blocked and sent the ball spinning into the end zone where Platte County senior linebacker Dakota Schmidt won the race to the touchdown.
Schmidt scored his second non-offensive touchdown of the year without any return yards. Cummings still doesn’t have a touchdown despite handling punt return duties in addition to his two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
“I’m sure there’ll be a couple more (interceptions) coming,” Cummings said. “Credit to Dakota. He does have two more touchdowns than me, but that’s all right.”
The next three drives for Platte County ended in McNair’s third touchdown run and touchdown passes from Mitchell to TJ Guillory (5 yards) and John Watts (15 yards) — scoring possessions sandwiched around Winnetonka’s only touchdown of the first half plus a two-point conversion.
Mitchell ended up with 119 yards passing on just 16 attempts with Guillory snagging five catches for 34 yards — leaving him at 119 receptions for his career and one away from tying assistant coach Todd Jaros’ school record of 120.
Both receivers now have nine touchdowns on the season.
McNair rolled up 118 yards on just eight carries, passing the 100-yard mark for the eighth time in 10 games and increasing his team lead in rushing touchdowns to 19. In the loss to Kearney, he moved into second in Platte County history for career rushing yards, posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
“He is a huge person on this team, huge role,” Cummings said. “He definitely carries this offense a lot. He carries a lot of pressure, but he just keeps driving his feet, keeps his head down and just runs hard. He’s a great player.”
Watts’ touchdown uncovered in the left side of the end zone stretched Platte County’s lead to 45-8.
The deficit allowed Mitchell to give way to junior reserve Tanner Clarkson for the final short drive of the first half and all of the second half. He completed all eight of his passes for 84 yards and added 36 yards rushing.
The biggest play for Clarkson came early in the third quarter.
On second and 19 from the Winnetonka 21, Clarkson dropped a screen pass to senior running back Jamil Jones who weaved into the end zone for the first touchdown of his career. On the Pirates’ designated senior night, that allowed for another first.
Zach Pixler, a senior reserve to Lacina, took the field for his second extra-point try of the season. He missed a previous attempt in a blowout of Harrisonville but made good on his chance at redemption, adding the last of the Pirates’ 52 points before teammates mobbed him in celebration.
Platte County wide receiver Jackson Phan, a junior, caught four passes for 46 yards, while junior Devin Richardson had one reception for 22 yards.
Winnetonka ended up with 346 yards of offense but managed only two touchdowns against mostly reserves, who might not see many more snaps this season. The blowout of the Griffins puts Platte County in the district semifinals with a chance to renew a rivalry with Smithville (8-2), a former Midland Empire Conference foe.
Last year, Platte County won a tight matchup between the two, reversing the result of the previous season’s semifinal. The Pirates and Warriors have met in districts each of the first four seasons of the state’s current playoff format and will continue that trend Friday, Oct. 28 at Pirate Stadium.
“We just want the full team effort,” Mitchell said. “We want everyone to give their all because you never know. Now, it’s the playoffs, and our season could end at any moment. It’s always fun playing Smithville.”
Platte County, ranked No. 4 in Class 4 according to the Missouri media, needs a win to earn a potential coveted rematch with top seed and No. 1-ranked Kearney (9-1), which hosts St. Joseph Lafayette in District 8’s other semifinal. The Bulldogs won their fifth straight in the series with Platte County to close the regular season, a streak that includes last year’s District 8 final.