Shorthanded but in control, Platte County appeared set to see out a meaningful and comfortable victory at Pirate Stadium.
Instead, Pembroke Hill forced in a pair of goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation and created chaos in front of the Pirates’ net in the closing seconds, nearly producing an equalizer Thursday night. The Raiders’ late push came up just short in a matchup of potential Class 3 District 8 foes.
Platte County senior forward Gavin Nichols scored the opening goal and assisted on one of senior forward Josh Nelson’s two markers after halftime in what ended up a more-dramatic-than-needed 3-2 victory. The Pirates (8-3) have now won five straight after knocking off Pembroke Hill.
The two teams split a pair of meetings in 2022 with Pembroke Hill prevailing in a controversial Class 3 District 8 semifinal that ended Platte County’s season.
“We came into this game knowing this is a really good team,” Nichols said. “It doesn’t matter their record. They play really good teams. We just came in knowing we want to win this game; we have the passion to win this game, and we came out; we had a really, really good start.”
Platte County played without senior defensive midfielder Connor Currence and senior center back Fabian Risager due to illness, stretching an already taxed lineup.
Pembroke Hill presented an interesting challenge with more talent than a 1-10-1 record accrued against an elite schedule would indicate. Yet, the Pirates were on the board first after 23 minutes when Nelson made a long run and squared to Nichols, who tapped in from close range for a 1-0 lead that held until the second half.
Platte County ended up producing eight shots on goal but made the most of quality opportunities.
“We were outworking them,” Nichols said. “The goal showed for itself.”
In the 47th minute, Nelson continued his strong recent run of form with a goal on an assist from senior midfielder AJ Schrick then made the score 3-0 in the 51st minute on an assist from Nichols.
Platte County’s offense continues to mostly run through that trio. Nichols led the Pirates in goals as a sophomore then became a complementary option next to all-state forward Aaron Cordova, who spent his freshman and senior seasons for the Pirates while pursuing opportunities outside of high school in the two years between. Nelson spent the past two years alternating between forward and midfield but always providing a solid attacking option off the bench.
Nelson and Nichols have scored six goals apiece during the six-game winning streak.
“One thing I do really love about Josh, one, we play really well together,” Nichols said. “We have really good chemistry along with AJ, as well. But (Nelson) is just so fast. He’s the first forward I’ve played with besides Aaron that I can play a ball over the top and I know he’s getting there. It’s just a really unique trait and then tonight he showcased how well he can finish, as well.”
Platte County held the shutout until late in the second half despite moving sophomore Jackson Goodale inside on the three-man backline to play the central role of defense with Risager out, while junior Bresner Garcia returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the opening week on the left side. Daniel Bunge, a senior, remained the starter on the left.
While Risager missed the first week of the season while meeting the required number of practices, Platte County used a four-man defense but opted to stay in the three-man look against Pembroke Hill, which produced eight total shots. Many of those came late against Pirates junior goalkeeper Paul Havemeier, who finished with six saves. The Raiders’ strategy involved serving the ball into the box to create disorder in dangerous areas.
Both goals came off scrambles, the second on a free kick from 21 yards out the Platte County defense could not clear.
“We played a super good game, but that last 10 minutes, it was really rough,” Nichols said. “After they scored that first goal, our intensity went way down. It was really worrying because a team like that, a really skilled team, once they get that momentum they keep going and going, and you can’t really stop it. Yeah, I was definitely really nervous, but I’m glad we pulled it out in the end.”
Only three of Platte County’s eight wins have come via cleansheet, and Pembroke Hill’s goals came in the 73rd and 75th minutes. The Raiders search for an equalizer included an open header on the back post off of a corner kick in the 79th minute and then a chaotic sequence in the final seconds that ultimately didn’t result in a clean shot that could have sent the game to overtime.
Platte County survived and now goes into a lengthy break veteran coach Ashlyn Brantley wants to use to rest and heal the roster. The Pirates have historically played in Park Hill South’s Panther Classic during the opening week of October, but lack of participating teams led to the cancelation of the annual event this year.
Now, Platte County’s next game will be a return to Suburban Conference White Division play on Monday, October 9 at Belton. The Pirates currently lead the league standings at 3-0.
Platte County 4, William Chrisman 1
Nelson scored both of the Pirates’ goals in the first half, while junior midfielder Julian Nemeth and Bunge both found the net early in the second half of Wednesday’s White Division game at Pirate Stadium.
Platte County produced 17 total shots and led 4-0 before William Chrisman scored late to account for the final score. Schrick off of a corner kick and Nichols from a cross set up Nelson’s goals in the fifth and 38th minutes, while Risager earned the assist on Nemeth’s volley in the 44th minute.
Bunge’s first career goal came on a penalty kick in the 49th minute.
Havemeier made one save, while junior Aidan Murray made three in the second half for Platte County, which was without Currence for the first of two straight games. The Pirates started sophomore Abe Norman in both games alongside fellow sophomore and second-year starter Cameron Habel and senior Andrew Reinsch while senior Calvin Thrasher and junior Tug Thornton also saw increased action.