Platte County senior midfielder Calvin Forrester battles with Smithville senior Zach Miller for a ball Monday at Pirate Stadium. ROSS MARTIN/PC Preps Extra

Smithville battles way past Platte County to likely force split of conference title

Rivals have exchanged 1-0 results in recent weeks and likely will match up again in Class 3 District 8 semifinals Monday at Pirate Stadium.
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Not much separated Platte County and Smithville in Monday night’s critical Suburban Conference Blue Division matchup — even with the host team minus four key players.

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Platte County senior Palmer Boekhout takes a shot against Smithville on Monday at Pirate Stadium.

Platte County continued to be without starting junior midfielder Joseph Ibarra and sophomore midfielder Ahoy Victore and reserve junior forward Felix Victore and sophomore midfielder AJ Schrick due to COVID-19 protocols. Still, Smithville needed a well-placed and executed connection on a free kick and a staunch defensive effort to escape Pirate Stadium with a hard-fought 1-0 win that earned the Warriors a split of the season series.

In the first conference matchup between the two, Platte County prevailed 1-0 on an overtime goal from senior midfielder Calvin Forrester, and now, the teams prepare for a likely rubber match in next week’s Class 3 District 8 semifinals.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game, and yeah, we kept it close,” Platte County coach Ashlyn Brantley. “Hopefully, we get some of our players back and get a different result.”

Platte County (18-3, 11-1 Blue Division) entered with a chance to wrap up the outright Blue Division title with a win but faced uncertainty with a quartet of contributors still unavailable. Still, little changed with the rivals engaging in a physical matchup filled with verbal exchanges and limited offensive chances.

The game-winning goal came when senior Nick Harlan took a free kick from deep on the left that drifted all the way to the far post and found senior Kyle Corkill for a devastating one-time strike in the 57th minute. Platte County senior goalkeeper Patrick Sullivan could do nothing with the powerful strike, leaving the Pirates to chase in the remainder.

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Platte County senior midfielder Jake Kingery dribbles up field against Smithville on Monday at Pirate Stadium.

“Even those other set pieces they had in the game, we were struggle to stay goal side,” Brantley said. “That’s what happened on that one. We didn’t stay goal side. They had those inside runs, and they were right there to finish like they should have been.”

Platte County nearly came back to tie the match within two minutes.

Smithville gave away a free kick from about 28 yards out on the right in the 59th minute, and Pirates senior central defender Isaac Havemeier came up to stand over the ball alone. He opted to fire in a left-footed shot that forced Smithville senior goalkeeper Caden Egbert to spill the ball back out in front of the net.

Forrester pounced on the rebound in a full sprint and fired a well-struck right-footed shot straight at Egbert, who pushed the shot away and out of danger.

“The goalkeeper made some really good saves down there,” Brantley said. “We had the opportunities. Against good teams — I keep saying it; I’ve said it all season — we have to make those opportunities count because you don’t get many of them.

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Platte County senior defender Spencer Hay hits a pass against Smithville on Monday at Pirate Stadium.

Platte County wouldn’t have a better chance, and the next-best moment came in the 65th minute when senior forward Palmer Boekhout made a tough run toward the end line on the right. He sent in a low cross, but sophomore midfielder Connor Currence couldn’t find the right touch.

Smithville eventually cleared and continued to survive Platte County’s increasingly frenetic and desperate offensive pushes.

“I think the set piece deflated us a little bit, got our heads down,” Brantley said. “Toward the end, we tried to work it back in, tried to get those chances again, but time wasn’t on our side.”

Platte County did receive a boost with the return of two midfielders who could not play in their senior night last Thursday.

Forrester stayed home for the game with Grandview while battling illness, and senior Nathan Macaluso made his return less than a week after fracturing his foot in a win over Ruskin. The Pirates showed initial energy in the pace of play and amount of possession against defensive-minded Smithville.

However, the advantage started to wane toward halftime, although Macaluso came up with a pair of shots in the 36th minute on a quick counterattack. Smithville blocked the first attempt and deflected the second, allowing the ball to harmlessly roll into Egbert’s arms.

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Platte County senior defender Isaac Havemeier slides to knock the ball out of play against Smithville on Monday at Pirate Stadium.

Still, Macaluso’s return provided a lift not just for this game, but Platte County’s postseason outlook.

“It’s always good to have him out there,” Brantley said. “He didn’t take as many shots today as we’d like, but he can control that ball and the midfield. We need him out there.”

Early in the second half, Sullivan made a comfortable save — one of his 4 in the game — in the 44th minute on a speculative shot, but otherwise, Platte County again seemed to have the better run of play. In the 47th minute, the head refereee adamantly waved off appeals for handball in the box against Smithville, and the Pirates then created a pair of opportunities for dangerous shots just outside the 18-yard box.

On the first, Platte County senior midfielder Tyler Bean fired high, and Boekhout sent his wide moments later. Against the run of play, Smithville produced the eventual winning goal and likely locked up a share of the conference title.

Platte County earned the No. 2 seed in the Class 3 District 8 bracket behind Pembroke Hill, while Smithville took the No. 3. While the bracket includes six teams with a winning record and seven at .500 or better, the two teams will be favored to create the rematch in the semifinals. The Warriors won all three matchups between the two teams a year ago, including the final of a smaller Class 3 District 16 bracket.

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Platte County senior midfielder Nathan Macaluso goes up to head a ball toward goal against Smithville on Monday at Pirate Stadium.

Smithville (18-5, 10-1 Blue Division) only needs to beat Raytown South on Thursday to earn its half. Even if that comes to pass, the Pirates will still take their piece of the crown after yielding after Raytown South topped them, Smithville and Kearney in 2020.

“We’re still proud and had a good season, as far as conference goes,” Brantley said. “We’ll take the co-conference champions rather than not. We’ll take that.”

Platte County earned the No. 2 seed in the Class 3 District 8 bracket behind Pembroke Hill, while Smithville took the No. 3. While the bracket includes six teams with a winning record and seven at .500 or better, the two teams will be favored to create the rematch in the semifinals. The Warriors won all three matchups between the two teams a year ago, including the final of a smaller Class 3 District 16 bracket.

Two years ago, Platte County reached the Class 3 state championship game and finished as runnerup with players like Ibarra, Forrester, Macaluso, Havemeier, senior defender Sawyer Allen and senior midfielder Luke Bunge playing key roles during the best season in program history. The Pirates’ large senior class, which also includes starting defender Spencer Hay, Jake Kingery, Cody Green and Mitchell Kelley, will be looking to make another run after last year’s disappointing finish.

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