Platte County’s coaches simply followed the script — and for good reasons.
With an extremely experienced senior class, the Pirates gave plenty of time to backups and even third stringers during the annual preseason jamboree, held Friday, Aug. 12 at Pirate Stadium on the school’s newly installed artificial turf. They still managed to score five touchdowns and allow just three in sets of 24 plays against Excelsior Springs, Pembroke Hill and St. Pius X.
Platte County did the work with senior center Casey Jumps out with a back injury and senior quarterback Justin Mitchell playing limited snaps with a cast on his non-throwing left hand.
“We just want to be safe with it,” Platte County coach Bill Utz said. “Every year is a little bit different, but when we have so many kids that have played before, I don’t really need to see them play. I already know kind of what they’re going to do. We wanted to make sure we got our 2s in there and be smart about injuries. It just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Mitchell suffered a chip fracture during summer baseball, and the cast will remain on for Platte County’s season-opener vs. Grandview on Friday, Aug. 19.
Coming off back-to-back Class 5 playoff appearances, Park Hill opens at Lee’s Summit North in a Suburban Conference Gold Division matchup. Park Hill moves up to Class 6 this season in addition to going into the largest of the league’s four divisions.
Park Hill South hosts Winnetonka on Friday, while North Platte hosts Gallatin. North Platte won last year’s meeting 2-0 in second-year coach Josh Rodriguez’s debut with the Panthers.
In Platte County’s warmup, the 36 scripted offensive plays featured plenty of passes — a chance for an almost entirely new corps of wide receivers to get on film for coach’s to assess.
Mitchell threw touchdowns to senior TJ Guillory — the Pirates’ leading receiver each of the past two seasons — and junior John Watts in the opening series against Excelsior Springs and then to Huner Tongate in the finale with St. Pius X, while junior backup quarterback Jordan Clarkson connected on scores with sophomore Dylan Gilbert against Excelsior Springs and senior Jacob Mundell against St. Pius X.
All five receivers with touchdowns should see playing time along with senior Carter Nugent. Utz said his receivers don’t all come from the same cookie cutter, and each can offer different strengths, giving the Pirates’ veteran coach a mix to use as the season develops.
“We need people to step up where they are needed,” Mundell said. “We all just try to do our best when our name is called, and you never know when that’s going to be. But when it’s time to go then you have to step up and go.”
Platte County started on defense against Excelsior Springs and gave up a touchdown on the second play when the Tigers came out in a Wing-T running formation. Excelsior Springs quarterback CJ Rhodes kept around the left end after a fake handoff to create some early excitement.
However, Platte County junior defensive end Michael Smith recorded a sack and a forced fumble the first time Rhodes dropped back to pass, and the Tigers needed a seemingly 13th and extra offensive play to score a second time.
“We’ll be good,” said Smith, the only player with significant experience from last year back on the defensive line. “I’m just out here trying to do my thing, show my teammates that we need to stay together, work as a team and work hard.”
On Platte County’s fourth play, Mitchell scrambled right and hit Guillory in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard score. The next play saw Mitchell hit Watts in the left seam for a 35-yard touchdown, and Clarkson and Gilbert connected on a similar play to close out the scoring.
Platte County running back Michael McNair rumbled the Pirates down to the goal line in the next series against Pembroke Hill, but a deflected pass resulted in an interception at the goal line. With Mitchell out soon after, the Pirates didn’t score, and Pembroke Hill tallied a lone touchdown on a 35-yard pass against mostly backups.
In the final series, St. Pius scored first on a 23-yard pass, but Platte County scored twice.
First, Mitchell threw a 34-yard pass to senior safety Kevin Neal, making a rare appearance on offense, with a fade route to the left side. Mitchell then connected with Tongate from 3 yards out, and Clarkson assured a “victory” late with his touchdown pass to Mundell.
Platte County’s offensive line featured three-year starters Derek Kohler (left tackle) and Austin Gammill (left guard), while right tackle Frank Gianessi will also be back for a second year with that group. In Jumps’ absence, junior Trevor Tietz started at center, while junior Matthew Blaha appears to be the likely starter at right guard.