Dylan Gilbert and Brice Bertram relied on one another all season long.
When a team paid too much attention to one of Platte County’s star wide receivers, the other would invariably benefit. Their successes were intertwined on the field, and they shared in a college signing ceremony Thursday, Feb. 7 along with senior baseball player Ethan Esdohr inside the Wilson Center for Performing Arts at Platte County High School.
Gilbert signed with Washburn, while Bertram chose William Jewell.
“It’s both of our dreams to go play college football,” Gilbert said. “I’m really proud of him, and he was really big to the success this year. We were a dual threat in my opinion.”
The pair took two very different paths to nearly identical standout senior seasons.
Gilbert started three years and finished his career as the most prolific statistical receiver in Platte County’s history, having caught passes from three all-state quarterbacks (Justin Mitchell 2016, Tanner Clarkson 2017 and Spencer Stewart (2018). He ended up with 73 catches for 1,171 yards and 15 touchdowns — at least one in each of the final nine games. The yardage set a single-season record for the Pirates previously held by Scottie Wilson (1,138 in 2012) while the TDs came up one short of the mark of 16 set by Jim Meyers in 1968 and equaled in 2017 by Devin Richardson.
In three seasons, Gilbert accrued school records of 168 career catches for 2,467 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Gilbert also played a part in 29 wins in three seasons. That included an 11-3 campaign in 2017 that ended with a Class 4 state semifinal loss to eventual state champion Webb City. The Pirates’ 11 wins were their most since moving up to Class 4, and the playoff run was their deepest since the move up from Class 3.
“I really did get a full experience in my three years playing at Platte County,” Gilbert said. “I hope I left a good mark here.”
Bertram credited the loss to Webb City with inspiring his senior season.
Used sparingly as a junior, Bertram transformed into a go-to receiver as a senior, having waited his turn behind a bevy of other talented wideouts. He had just seven catches and two touchdowns in 2017 but ended up with 65 catches for 977 yards and 13 touchdowns in 12 games this past season.
Bertram set a career-high for catches with 10 against Grandview and for yards with 215 against Grain Valley. He had two touchdowns catches in four different games and also had a streak of nine straight games with a touchdown catch starting with the Week 2 win over Park Hill South.
“I realized the way to get where I wanted to be, I had to start working out,” Bertram said. “I had to work hard in the weight room, work hard in the classroom and work hard in practice every minute I had. And not just myself but the people around me and my teammates because I’m not the only one on the field.
“(The loss to Webb City) was the turning point when I realized I can be great, and everyone around me can be great, too.”
Platte County entered the 2018 season with tempered expectations due to the loss of a valuable senior class. After a loss to Kearney in Week 3, the Pirates ran off eight straight wins to reach the Class 4 District 8 title game for a fourth straight year.
Gilbert and Bertram were part of a winless freshman team that grew into a successful group of seniors that continued Platte County’s winning tradition.
“We’ve always been the losing class,” Bertram said. “We wanted to prove people wrong, so when we started winning and got to the district championship, even though it didn’t come out the way we wanted, we were still proud of ourselves. It was way better than anyone else expected.”
Esdohr signed with Division II Pittsburg State for baseball ahead of his senior season.
Already a two-year starter, Esdohr will be part of a potentially deep pitching staff this spring for Platte County. He went 5-1 as a junior with a 0.92 ERA, striking out 46 and walking just five in 11 games. He also hit .350 (.441 on-base percentage) with five doubles, three home runs and 16 RBIs to go with 12 stolen bases.
Esdohr has split time between the mound and the outfield in his career but projects out as a pitcher in college.
“Since about sophomore year, I’ve kind of known my future would be pitching so I think I’ve always focused a little more on that,” Esdohr said.
But first, Esdohr will be a part of staff that also includes seniors Dalton Reichers, Glen Gammill and Nolan Saale. Platte County hopes to improve on last year’s 15-13 season with new coach John Sipes coming into the program.
Esdohr was a pivotal part of Platte County’s 24-3 season in 2017 when the Pirates advanced to the Class 5 state quarterfinals before losing to Lee’s Summit.
“I think we can build off what we had last year,” Esdohr said. “Hopefully, we can have a strong little pitching crew, get us through and go ring chasing this year.”