Platte County gets its revenge
By Stephen Bubalo PrepsKC staff writer
Revenge has already played a factor in the first few weeks of the Missouri state football playoffs, and after Wednesday night, you can add Platte County to that list.
The Pirates avenged a week seven 33-22 defeat at the hands of Liberty North tonight with an impressive 35-14 victory to advance to the district championship game Monday against Smithville.
“We wanted to go out and show them they weren’t going to be able to walk all over us and we were going to respond,” Platte County quarterback James Valentine said. “We answered well as a team. This was a different game.”
Indeed it was.
Platte County was able to establish a nice balance on offense – more than 100 yards rushing and almost 250 through the air – with the big plays coming in the passing game.
Valentine was on point all game, completing 14 of 20 passes for 243 yards and four scores. Three of the four touchdown throws were of 20-plus yards.
“I felt relaxed,” Valentine said. “The guys made it easy for me. I had lots of time to throw and the receivers made plays. We were hitting on all cylinders. We felt we could do whatever we wanted.”
Scottie Wilson and Austin Gilbert were the main recipients of Valentine’s pinpoint throws. Wilson finished with three scores and Gilbert the other, as they were able to beat the Liberty North defense with short and long throws.
“We were able to get a few favorable matchups,” Pirates head coach Bill Utz said. “James did a nice job of getting the ball to the guys that were open. I thought he was real focused. He was confident in his throws and his wide receivers. He did a nice job running the offense.”
“Their run game wasn’t a concern. We would have been happy if they handed it off every time,” Eagles head coach Ken Clemens said. “But in the passing game our kids weren’t on the same page. We had blown assignments and coverage the whole game. The frustrating thing was we didn’t do anything different on defense.”
The first half was a competitive battle with the Eagles striking on their first possession when quarterback Bryan Sharp found Paul Silvio for a 57-yard touchdown on a slant pattern.
Platte County would score 14 unanswered points on Wilson touchdown catches to go ahead 14-7 before the game’s pivotal sequence.
After the Pirates went ahead 14-7, the Eagles put together a long 14-play drive that encompassed a little more than seven minutes. They would get as deep as the Pirate 9-yard line before a chop block penalty derailed the drive. Three straight incomplete passes forced a turnover on downs and gave the ball back to Platte County with a minute left until halftime.
The Pirates capitalized, as two consecutive big pass plays to go along with two penalties by the Eagles after each play helped set up a Valentine 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal with 7 seconds left to make it 21-7 at the half.
“We were right where we wanted to be,” Clemens said of his teams drive. “I think if we score and it’s 14-14 (at the half) we’re able to play a little more ball control style of offense in the second half, but that series of events happened and put us down two scores.”
“Personally, I don’t like to kick it on the far hash that far down (the field),” Utz said of opting to go for it on fourth down over kicking a field goal. “It was either going to be devastating to us if we couldn’t score or it was going to be a big hole for them if we did.
“It was huge, especially since we got the ball again to the start the second half. On the headset I was saying we had to get points.”
And the Pirates kept the momentum going to start the second half with a nine-play, 80-yard drive to go ahead 28-7, allowing them to grab a firm control of the game.
“It was really good to get them out of their element,” Valentine said of taking the big lead against the usually run-heavy Eagles. “Going up … that was huge. We got them on their heels.”
Most importantly, that meant less of Liberty North star running back Antwynn Beavers touching the ball, as he finished with 23 carries for 106 yards after gaining 254 the first meeting.
Platte County will now face an upstart Smithville team that has won four straight games, including a dominating 49-21 win over second-ranked Savannah tonight.
“Every week we have one goal and that’s to go 1-0,” Valentine said. “We’ve done a good job of not looking ahead. It’s all about win and advance.”
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