Kelso leads Platte County past Grain Valley

By Stephen Bubalo PrepsKC Staff Writer
Posted: August 27, 2011 - 6:40 AM

By Stephen Bubalo
The Platte County High School football team looked like it was in midseason form Friday night to open the season, as they took it to Grain Valley on the Eagles’ home field in the way of a 49-7 victory.
Whether it was the defense stifling the Eagles to zero first downs in the first half or the offense scoring nearly every time it touched the ball, head coach Bill Utz had a lot to be happy about in week one.
“We didn’t know what to expect from the defense,” Utz said. “The offense, we have a lot of guys back and we played at a pretty high level last year. But with the defense we didn’t know what to expect and they made some good plays.”
And one of the biggest plays the defense made came on the first drive of the game, as Grain Valley and first-year head coach Jimmy Tucker decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 30-yard line, only to have the Pirates stuff the play to give the ball to quarterback Krae Kelso and the offense.
Eight plays later, on a fourth-and-goal from the 1, Kelso plunged over the goal line and the Pirates were off and running.
“That play was huge,” Kelso said of the defenses stop on fourth down. “This was our first time playing live and once they made that stop we had all the confidence in the world that the defense would get stops and the offense could score. “
The defense forced three-and-outs on the next three Eagle possessions and each one resulted in an eventual Pirate touchdown as they took a 28-0 lead into the half.
Of the four scoring drives, 58 yards was the furthest the Platte County offense had to travel. Two of the drives started in Grain Valley territory.
“They gave the offense good field position all night,” Utz said of the defense. “The defense played their tails off and gave the offense some great opportunities. I don’t think we had a long drive all night.”
While the early fourth down stop was big for the Pirates, Tucker saw a plethora of other things that led to the lopsided defeat in his first game with the Eagles.
“We had two big plays in the passing game we didn’t make and we couldn’t get our run game going,” Tucker said. “We had some third-and-short conversions we couldn’t convert. And when you don’t get a first down in the first half you’re not going to win.”
Grain Valley is still in the process of learning a new system, not to mention senior quarterback Jeremy Maynard returning from an ACL injury a season ago, and Tucker knows there will be kinks that need to be worked out in the early going.
“We had some,” he said. “That’s part of the growing pains. A good team like that will expose your weaknesses.
“ … But this isn’t a conference or a district game. We told them to not let this ruin their season. We need to use it to get better.”
The other signal caller, Kelso, was the driving force behind an explosive Pirate offense with several weapons.
He finished 15 of 22 for 183 yards and two touchdowns throwing the ball, while also contributing three rushing scores.
“This is our second year in this offense and we have nine or ten guys returning,” Kelso said. “We worked hard in the offseason, we worked our butts off, and people stepped up.”
Platte County finished last season by winning seven of its final eight games before losing to Kearney in the playoffs.
While the loss hurt, Kelso knew the strong finish was a way of building for the 2011 season.
“We didn’t like the way last season ended,” Kelso said. “We’ve been waiting for this moment (to get back on the field) since that game ended.”
The Pirates (1-0) will travel to Kearney next Friday, while the Eagles (0-1) will play at Blair Oaks.