GRANDVIEW, Mo. — Platte County would have taken the shutout, but regardless of the final score, the defensive performance looked dominant start to finish.
Grandview’s lone points in Friday’s Suburban Conference Blue Division matchup came on pick-six, and the Bulldogs mightily struggled on offense in a 24-7 loss at Grandview High School. The Pirates yielded just 161 total yards of offense and average of 3.0 yards per play on 53 snaps.
Platte County senior quarterback Jared Parsons threw touchdowns to junior wide receivers Carter Salzman (first of the season) and Tristan Magnuson (first of his career) for Platte County, while junior running back Nate Walls added his first offensive touchdown since joining the Pirates as a transfer — a 1-yard plunge up the middle in the second quarter. The Pirates scored 17 points in the second quarter — should have been 24 — for what turned out to be more than enough production for the dynamic defensive unit.
In the past eight quarters, Platte County’s defense has allowed just one field goal in blowout wins over Kearney and Grandview. The Pirates’ defense allowed 35 of the 42 points in a season-opening loss to Class 6-ranked Park Hill South but have been lights out since, giving up a field goal to Kearney on the first possession of Week 2 and nothing since then.
“I think Park Hill South we came out real cold,” said Platte County senior defensive end Jaydon Walls, who finished with four tackles, two quarterback pressures and a pass breakup. “We had a lot of new guys that weren’t ready — not that they weren’t ready but weren’t expecting what varsity is like. Now that we’re settled into it, I think we are becoming who we really are on defense.”
Jaydon Walls, junior defensive end Chandavian Bradley (tackle for loss) and junior Mar’Quese Brown (three tackles, two for loss) and sophomore Kohry Woessner (one tackle) — the inexperienced starting defensive tackles — were disruptive up front for Platte County, freeing up the linebackers and safeties to make big plays. Pirates senior linebackers Trevor Scott (six tackles, two for loss, and three QB pressures) and Blaine Keuhn (five tackles, three for loss) led the way, while senior safety Cade Fowler also finished with six tackles (one for loss) and junior safety Cameron Wolfe added three solo tackles.
Grandview rarely tested the defensive secondary with senior quarterback Chris Connor finishing just 3-for-12 for 16 yards.
Platte County junior cornerback Garrett Smith made just two tackles, while senior cornerback Dylan Mitchell made one stop and added a pass breakup. Landon Fulk, the Pirates’ senior free safety, contributing a tackle and a pass breakup with the Bulldogs rarely able to reach that level of the defense.
“I think our interior D-line stepped up a lot,” Jaydon Walls said. “That stopped the run game a lot, and then Trevor and Blaine are flying around.”
Platte County (2-1) now prepares for a stiff challenge and possibly the biggest game of the regular season playing at North Kansas City (2-1) this Friday. The Hornets have won two straight since a season-opening loss to Raytown and check in at No. 6 in this week’s Class 5 Missouri Media poll.
Raytown (2-0) ranks No. 3 in Class 5.
Coming off back-to-back state championship game appearances first in Class 4 and then Class 5 a year ago, Platte County remains off the rankings radar. The Pirates split a pair of matchups with North Kansas City a year ago, losing a wild 42-37 regular season matchup after allowing a flurry of defensive and special teams touchdowns to blow a big lead. They then won the Class 5 District 8 semifinal rematch during an impressive postseason run.
Currently, Platte County owns the top spot in this year’s Class 5 District 8 standings with North Kansas City at No. 2 and No. 9-ranked Fort Osage (2-1) at No. 3. North Kansas City beat Fort Osage last week, and Platte County has no other games against teams in the district, which includes Staley, William Chrisman, Oak Park and St. Joseph Central.
Coincidentally, Grandview first-year coach Dan Joiner came over after a stint as an assistant at North Kansas City, and both teams now run a very similar offense, meaning the Bulldogs gave them a good idea of what will be seen in Week 4.
“I definitely think (Grandview) was a help,” Jaydon Walls said. “It’s kind of like scout team vs. varsity, but I think it will help a lot (against NKC).”
There were few negatives for Platte County against Grandview, which entered as the No. 9-ranked Class 4 team in the Missouri Media poll. However, the Pirates played without senior left guard Caleb Kelley, causing a massive shuffle on the offensive line before and during the game, and Parsons threw his second pick-six in three starts to provide the Bulldogs with a potential spark in the second half.
Platte County still led 17-0 late in the third quarter after stamping out Grandview’s best drive, forcing a turnover on downs in the red zone. However, two plays later, Parsons threw his second interception of the game, and Bulldogs senior Tyrek Cleaves returned the turnover virtually untouched for a 41-yard touchdown to close the deficit to 10 points.
“Turnovers always need to be cut down,” Platte County coach Bill Utz said. “That’s a given.”
Parsons came right back.
Grandview senior linebacker Phillips Nelson picked up a taunting penalty after blocking Parsons out of bounds on the touchdown return. Platte County opted to enforce the 15-yard penalty on the kickoff, and the Bulldogs sent the first attempt out of bounds for another 5-yard markoff.
Wolfe then fair caught the next kick at Grandview’s 43.
Parsons hit junior wide receiver Dayne Wimberly for the only time in the game on a 21-yard gainer on the second play of the ensuing drive to reach the red zone. Nate Walls then ran three straight times but a holding penalty negated a potential first down.
After a 9-yard completion to senior running back Ben McDaniel, Platte County faced a fourth and 3 and elected to go for it. For the second time in the game, Parsons completed a touchdown pass on fourth down, hitting Magnuson over the middle for an 11-yard score to put the Pirates up 24-7 with 9 minutes, 26 seconds left in regulation.
“Parsons has got a little moxie, which is good,” Utz said. “What he’s gaining that people don’t see is his understanding of what’s happening. He’s seeing things, and him seeing and understanding it makes it easier for him to do. He does a good job that if something bad happens, he gets rid of it and comes back. At that position, you have to be able to do that.”
Platte County’s offense showed flashes but ultimately looked inconsistent behind a makeshift front five. Pirates seniors Joe Nicholson (left tackle) and Connor Harmon (center) were in their normal spots, but sophomore Muyonta Maxwell shifted to from right tackle to left guard with Kelley out. That left junior Braden Parker to make his second straight start at left guard, while junior Sage Lutz made his first career start at right tackle.
Eventually, Maxwell shifted back out to left tackle, while senior Jaisyn House, who started the opener at left guard, junior Jackson Eller and even junior Brody Gates rotated in for parts of the game. Gates received his first significant action at the varsity level at right tackle.
“One of the reasons it looks like it’s in flux is because there are about five kids who are interchangeable,” Utz said. “There are a couple of pieces on the line that have really solidified a role, and then we have another group that are fighting all the time that we feel comfortable putting in there. It’s not a horrible scenario, but we obviously we want to be able to find some continuity and get Caleb back healthy.”
The results were mixed.
Outside of the two interceptions, Parsons finished an efficient 9-for-15 for 124 yards and completed passes to five different receivers, including game-highs of four catches and 57 yards for Salzman in his best performance of the season. Platte County’s running game continued to feature McDaniel (16 carries, 64 yards; two catches for 17 yards) first, but Nate Walls — more of a speedy, pass-catching threat — received more snaps and responded with 10 carries for 55 yards.
Nate Walls also plays out wide but has yet to find his footing in the passing game.
“I’m very excited. I’ve kind of been waiting for Nate have his shine, too,” said Salzman, who also took a jet sweep for a 4-yard run. “Ben’s a great back, and now you’re seeing a little of what Nate brings.”
Cleaves also intercepted Parsons on the game’s opening possession, hauling in the ball after Salzman went up to try and corral a high throw but ended up deflecting it dangerously up in the air.
Platte County went three-and-out on its second possession, as well, but Grandview couldn’t take advantage. The Bulldogs racked up a pair of procedure penalties — the second declined — on an opening three-and-out and two holding penalties on the second drive, which was only extended after punter Cyle Wright dropped a snap and turned it into a 12-yard run around right end for a first down.
The momentum was immediately lost when Bradley shot through on the ensuing play and dropped Grandview wide receiver Antavion Williams for a 14-yard loss, swinging him down as the tried to find room deep in the backfield on an end around.
“I’m going to give our defense a lot of credit on that,” Utz said. “That’s part of the reason they couldn’t get anything going. We held them scoreless, if I remember right, without a turnover until late so with only one turnover and still keeping them scoreless and mostly on their end of the field, that’s really good.”
Salzman finally provided the spark for Platte County’s offense on special teams. He picked up Wright’s punt on a high bounce at his own 19, spun away from an initial defender and returned the kick 66 yards to Grandview’s 15.
“A lot of the punts is a lot of peripheral vision,” Salzman said. “So when I saw that ball bounce, I knew, ‘OK, I make one move, I’ve got the blockers in front of me. I can probably take this pretty far,’ which they’re a fast time and caught me from behind. But I had some good blocks and set us up in a good position.”
McDaniel ripped off an 11-yard run to set up first and goal at the 2, but Platte County went minus-2 yards, 2 yards and minus-2 yards on three straight run attempts — the first for McDaniel and then two for Nate Walls — to set up fourth and goal at the 4 for the first play of the second quarter. The Pirates gambled, and Parsons hit Salzman on a quick out route for a 4-yard touchdown with 11:56 left in the first half.
Last year, Salzman took until Week 8 against Raytown South to score his first TD, and he didn’t catch his first touchdown until the postseason, finishing with three in his first year as a starter. He entered the season as the top returning pass-catcher but had watched as senior wide receiver Cole Rhoden recorded back-to-back 100-yard receiving games with a pair of 90-plus-yard touchdowns against Park Hill South and Kearney.
Rhoden was limited to just one catch for 18 yards against Grandview.
“It did feel nice,” Salzman said. “Last week, I really liked watching Cole show out. That was great for him. Same thing as last year, he’s a senior; this is his year. I really like watching that, but it does feel good to also have my time.”
Grandview continued to rack up penalties on its first two possessions of the second quarter, going three and out and punting after each.
Platte County took advantage, initially with Parsons
hitting Salzman for a 44-yard catch-and-run that set up Walls’ 1-yard touchdown run two plays later. He set up the score with a nifty 10-yard run that came up just shy of the goal line. The Pirates ended up with a 36-yard Rhoden field goal after the second punt of the quarter to make it 17-0 with 3:12 left before halftime.
The score at the beginning of the second quarter continued a trend of quick scores after the first and third quarters this season.
“We’ll take the spark whenever we can get it; it just seems to have been the start of quarters,” Utz said. “We emphasize a good start after every pause (in the game) when they’re able to regroup.”
Grandview gambled on a fourth down at its own 41 with 22 seconds left in the quarter and gave Platte County a chance at additional points. McDaniel broke off a 20-yard run on the next play, and after the clock initially failed to stop, the Pirates were granted a timeout with 14 seconds on the clock.
Parsons then hit Rhoden up the seam for an 18-yard completion, but with time ticking away and a timeout available, Platte County rushed to the line to run a play. McDaniel took a handoff from the 3 and was ruled down just short of the goal line, and time expired, leaving Utz visibly frustrated.
“I was frustrated with the whole series,” he said. “First of all, they didn’t stop the clock on a first down and were running time off. I called a timeout at 16 seconds, and they gave me 14. It looked like he was in, and when I looked at the clock, it was at zero.
“It was an unfortunate series of time. Could we have done something different? Maybe.”
This turned out significant when Grandview scored the defensive touchdown, but Platte County recovered. The Pirates avoided a letdown like the one two seasons ago in the matchup between the two teams.
In the 2019 regular season finale, Grandview scored an upset of Platte County, which went on to make a run to the state title game. This time, the Pirates avoided the letdown before facing North Kansas City and Class 4 No. 1-ranked Smithville (3-0) in the next two weeks.