Kearney races past Platte County
By Marc Bowman PrepsKC staff writer
In a matchup featuring a pair of top Missouri Class 4 programs, the fifth-ranked Kearney Bulldogs hammered the tenth-ranked Platte County Pirates, 36-0.
The Bulldogs’ stifling defense held the Pirates to 21 yards total offense. Platte County managed just one first down in the first five possessions, setting up short-field scoring opportunities as Kearney enjoyed an average start-of-drive at the Platte County 45.
“Lights out,” Bulldogs Head Coach Greg Jones said. “When you’ve got a defense that plays the way ours does, you’ve always got a shot. Special teams performed really well also.”
“They’ve got such a great kicker,” Pirates Head Coach Bill Utz said. “He did a nice job for field position, especially early on and they have a tremendous defense. Our offense struggled against their defense. They came out and did some good things against us. They were able to implement what they wanted to do and keep us on that half of the field.”
Senior Marcus Harris made sure Kearney took advantage with a pair of first-quarter scores.
“The biggest thing we preach is hidden yardage and special teams,” Harris said. “Hats off to Coach (Andy) Lierman because we did a really great job to win that hidden yardage battle. That played a big part in our offensive game.”
A 32-yard flea-flicker from senior Aaron Mello to junior Jess Davis setup the Bulldog’s first score when Harris scored from the one on the next play.
On their third set of downs senior Logan Hinck connected in the flat with Harris, who broke several tackles on the 36-yard gain. Harris’ seven-yard run on the next play made it 14-0 with 1:29 left in the first quarter.
“That’s a throw out screen,” Harris explained. “I just took it and read my blocks. I saw that green field and I remember shaking a couple of tackles off and trying to get to the pylon.”
“He’s a great running back,” Jones said. “He runs hard, runs with passion, plays with emotion… everything you want kids to do.”
Midway through the second quarter, Harris broke off a 22-yard run on a fake punt, taking the ball to the 21-yard line. Hinck’s one-yard plunge four plays later gave the Bulldogs a 24-0 lead with 4:27 left in the half.
Senior Dawson Goepferich knocked through a 27-yard field goal early in the second quarter, then connected on a 52-yarder with 48.8 seconds left, bouncing it off the crossbar for a 27-0 halftime advantage.
“We knew he had that leg because we made him do that in practice,” Jones said. “When he jogged out there we said ‘Hey, Dawson, you did this in practice just yesterday’ and he said ‘I got this, coach’. He didn’t bang it off the cross bar but actually it was 57 yards in practice.”
Following a scoreless third quarter and a tough defensive stop at their own one-yard line, Pirates senior quarterback Lloyd Lockett was sacked for a safety.
Harris then capped the scoring with his third touchdown, a five-yard sweep around left end with 8:59 remaining in the game. Harris finished with 96 yards rushing and Hinck added 103.
“Give them credit,” Coach Utz said. “Kearney does all the little things that you have to do really well. They’re a very good team. We’ve got to regroup and get a little bit better. There’s definitely stuff to build on. Our kids are competitors. In a situation like that we’re fighting to get momentum and we’re fighting to get field position. Halftime kind of gives you a chance to hit the reset mode where we’re able to make some adjustments. We were able to get some positive out of it.”
Kearney (6-1) and Platte County (5-2) joined to begin the “Highway 92 Showdown” rivalry. The newly-minted rivalry winner will take home the travelling trophy, a replica Highway 92 road sign.
The event will support charitable causes. This year’s T-shirt sales, raffle, and donations benefit the TNK Children’s Foundation, which supports parents caring for children with cancer.
“It’s great for the community to have bragging rights,” Jones said.
The programs have combined for four of the last five Suburban Small Six Conference titles. Two-time defending champion Kearney remained unbeaten in conference play (2-0) and will host Belton, the conference’s remaining unbeaten team, Friday.
“We wanted to make a big statement to the state and hopefully that opens people’s eyes,” Harris said. That one loss we had, we didn’t play our best football. We totally learned from our mistakes and I’m proud of our team for doing that.”
Platte County, which shared the championship with Kearney last year, fell to 1-2 in conference play; the Pirates travel to Grandview Friday.
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