Left in the wake

Todd Nugent/Special to PrepsKC

By Bill Knust PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 9, 2016 - 9:35 PM

What was projected to be a wonderful football game between two highly-ranked teams got out of hand in a hurry. Class 4 No. 6-ranked Platte County dominated No. 2-ranked Harrisonville 49-0.

The Pirates defense forced 10 turnovers in the contest and the special teams also collected an onside kick to open the game. Eight of the 10 turnovers came in the first half, as the Wildcats never did find a rhythm in their option offense.

A week after allowing more than 500 yards of offense in a loss to Staley, the Pirates first-team defense held Harrisonville to 62 total yards. The JV team also held the shutout through the third and fourth quarters. Making the job more complicated was preparing for Harrisonville’s triple-option attack.

“We had to learn our assignments quickly,” safety Kevin Neal said. “That offense is tough. Once mistake and they are gone.”

Platte County jumped on Harrisonville from the opening kick, recovering a pooch kick at the Wildcats’ 35-yard line. Two plays later, running back Michael McNair found paydirt from 1-yard out. Quarterback Justin Mitchell’s pass to receiver Jon Watts set up the score.

Once Harrisonville got the ball on offense they didn’t have it long. Quarterback Brandon Eickhorst committed the first of his seven turnovers, fumbling the option mesh with the fullback on the first play. In the first half, Harrisonville didn’t have a drive longer than five plays.

Mitchell scored on a 7-yard draw four plays later to make it 13-0 following a missed PAT.

It didn’t get any better for the Wildcats’ offense after that. They turned it over on their next three possessions. On their fifth possession, star running back Morgan Selemaea got hurt making a tackle on a punt return and didn’t return the rest of the game. He had his left arm in a sling after the game.

The thing that saved the game from getting out of hand sooner than it did was the Harrisonville defense. Twice they intercepted Mitchell in Harrisonville’s red zone.

Platte County coach Bill Utz said he was worried the Pirates were going to let their early momentum slip away.

“It was really frustrating because what is going to through my mind is that we are playing such great defense, and that is not going to continue against a team like Harrisonville,” Utz said. “I am thinking once they get things straightened out we are going to be mad at ourselves that we didn’t capitalize. Ultimately, we should have capitalized more. Credit to them, they made some great plays defensively to keep that from happening.”

However, Neal made sure the Wildcats’ offense wasn’t going anywhere. He snagged two interceptions in the first half and also recovered a fumble.

“Coach (Eric) Mitchell just puts a great scheme together that just lets me go roam and be an athlete,” Neal said. “That’s what I do.”

McNair finished the game with three touchdowns and 124 yards on 24 carries – all in the first half. Mitchell threw two touchdowns and ran for another. He finished the night 5 of 11 for 116 yards.

Neal said the Pirates have had the game marked on their calendar for quite some time.

“They make it deep into the playoffs every year,” Neal said. “We just wanted to come out and show who we are.”

Utz told his team after the loss last week to Staley that it would open some people’s eyes, but he said this game would be a chance to make a statement. However, even he didn’t see this result coming.

“It was a game where things started going (south),” Utz said. “I’ve been on the other end of it, and you just can’t stop it. I do know that our defense was extremely upset about the points we gave up last week. We put a lot of emphasis on not doing anything but getting us better. I think that showed.”

Both Utz and Neal said there is room for improvement, which is great news for the Pirates and bad news for other Class 4 teams in the state.

“We’ve got a lot of room to grow,” Neal said. “This is only week 4. There is a lot of room to get better.”