RAYTOWN, Mo. — Platte County displayed the same dominance but created more issues and rankled the coaching staff more than necessary in Friday’s 44-8 win over Raytown South at Raytown South High School Stadium. The Pirates were turnover free but displayed an inconsistent passing game and overcame 12 penalties for 105 self-destructive yards.
A stout defense held an opponent to one score or less for the sixth time this season — all in victories — while Platte County junior running back Nate Walls recorded his second straight 100-yard rushing game and scored four touchdowns on the ground, doubling his previous total in that stat category from the first seven games of the season. The Pirates (6-2) also jumped from No. 6 to a season-best tie for fourth in the most recent Class 5 Missouri media poll after previously No. 4 Lebanon (7-1) suffered its first loss of the season, but coach Bill Utz knows the ranking will ring hollow if a similar performance comes against top tier competition.
“The team discipline wasn’t on point the way it needed to be tonight,” Utz said. “We’ve got to get that stuff straightened out. If we get that stuff straightened out, we’re pretty solid. If we keep giving people chances, then we make things a game.”
Platte County’s previously secure defense looked vulnerable for one drive, losing a 9 1/2 quarter scoreless streak against winless Raytown South (0-7, 0-4 Suburban Conference Blue Division, but a blocked punt from senior safety Cade Fowler and interceptions for junior cornerback Garrett Smith-Dean and senior safety Landon Fulk were enough to create a running clock for much of the second half. The Cardinals managed only six first downs and 147 yards of offense, while limited to 39 offensive snaps.
Fowler and senior linebacker Blaine Keuhn led Platte County’s stingy defense with five tackles apiece, while senior linebacker Trevor Scott and Landon Fulk added four tackles and one tackle for loss apiece and junior safety Cameron Wolfe had three stops to hold Raytown South to just 7 yards rushing on 14 attempts. The negative yardage plays included a third quarter snap up against the goal line when junior defensive tackle Mar’Ques Brown (one tackle) initially hit running back Chris Watson in the end zone before senior defensive end Jaydon Walls (two tackles, two for loss) and Fowler combined on a safety.
Platte County junior defensive end Chandavian Bradley added a tackle, one loss and a forced fumble, while sophomore defensive tackle Kohry Woessner (one tackle) made the team’s fifth tackle for loss. The Pirates were occasionally vulnerable against a quick passing game, but Smith-Dean (two tackles) also made three pass breakups in addition to his interception.
Raytown South trailed 27-0 before knifing into the large deficit. After a rare defensive stop, Cardinals quarterback Manny Burnett, who finished 10-for-24 for 146 yards, used a 54-yard completion to wide receiver Connor Nixon to set up his 5-yard touchdown run on a QB keeper with 4 minutes, 55 seconds left in the second quarter.
“I think we’re definitely going to have to look at that during practice to try and fix that,” said Platte County senior cornerback Dylan Mitchell, who made one tackle. “It was a coverage mistake, and they just got the best of us.”
With the lead down to 27-8, Platte County didn’t immediately respond and punted after a three-and-out.
Burnett used a 20-yard completion to wide receiver Marcus Neal to move Raytown South to its own 42 before the Platte County defense came up with a needed stop. Taking over with 1:18 left in the first half, Pirates senior quarterback Jared Parsons came up with his best drive of the night. He immediately hit senior tight end Brody Fulk for an 11-yard gain then came up with back-to-back 14-yard scrambles to move the ball just outside the red zone.
On first and 10 at the 22, Parsons moved around in the pocket before finding Nate Walls open behind the defense for a 16-yard gain. If not under thrown, the pass would’ve went for a touchdown, but two plays later, Parsons hit Brody Fulk again — this time in the flat — for an easy 2-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left before halftime and putting the Pirates up 35-8 following a two-point conversion pass to junior wide receiver Dayne Wimberly.
“Yeah, it was nice to get in the end zone, but I’m just glad we won and were able to take care of business,” said Brody Fulk, who finished with two catches for 13 yards against Raytown South after making his first career catch for 1-yard two weeks earlier in a 62-0 win over Ruskin. “Man, I’ve loved it. Any time I get to get in there at tight end, it’s just been so fun if I get to contribute something out there. Even though my snaps have been limited, I’ve just enjoyed every second of it.”
Platte County took the opening kickoff of the third quarter with a chance to close in or reach the 35-point running clock with a touchdown.
Raytown South unsuccessfully tried an onside kick, but despite an 18-yard catch-and-run on a pitch forward jet sweep from Parsons to junior wide receiver Carter Salzman, the Pirates were eventually forced to punt in plus territory. Nate Walls on coverage downed junior Dylan Zimmerman’s kick at the 2. Scott and Fowler combined on a stop at the 1 on the next play before Brown knifed into the backfield to clog up the running lane that led to the safety and a 37-8 lead.
Platte County needed just three plays from there to put the running clock into effect. Parsons hit junior wide receiver Tristan Magnuson for 19 yards, and Nate Walls accounted for the other 21 yards of the touchdown drive on runs around a Parsons completion. Nate Walls’ 9-yard burst into the end zone was his fourth of the game and ensured a running clock for the final 20:22 of the game with Landon Fulk snaring his interception on The Cardinals’ second possession of the third quarter to help the game move along quicker.
“Our special teams have been lights out this year — all of them,” Brody Fulk said. “That’s a great play by Nate, obviously sets up a safety down there. It’s just good to see everybody work hard, including Nate. Even though he’s scoring touchdowns, he’s also running down the field (on special teams).”
Parsons finished 8-for-19 for 128 yards with two touchdowns, while Zimmerman came in late to go 2-for-8 for 20 yards, although senior tight end Chandler Steinmeier dropped a sure touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Only four players caught passes from Parsons with senior Cole Rhoden out due to a broken collarbone suffered the week before in a 35-0 win over Winnetonka.
Rhoden still leads Platte County with 412 receiving yards on the season but will be out multiple weeks. Without him providing a consistent deep threat, Salzman led the way with three catches for 40 yards, while Magnuson made two for a team-high 56 yards in addition to the limited production from Brody Fulk at tight end and Nate Walls out of the backfield.
Platte County also looked at junior Dom Spears and Wimberly with the first string, but both went catchless outside of Wimberly’s two-point reception, while sophomore Nash Brown and junior Brennan Rich both made a grab apiece from Zimmerman. Brown’s went for 11 yards, while Rich gained 9 on his reception.
“We’ve got to keep doing the things we’ve been doing,” Utz said. “We’ve been blessed with some really good receivers, and we have some nice receivers and younger kids, too. As much as we don’t want to lose a player, it gives an opportunity to someone else. Whoever that’s going to be, we need him to step up and take that spot.”
In addition to Rhoden, Platte County played without senior running back Ben McDaniel (shoulder) and junior right guard Braden Parker due to his own undisclosed injury. Nate Walls continued to handle the majority of the rushing attempts with 108 yards on 24 carries a week after going for a career-high 113 against Winnetonka, while Parsons added 37 on the ground on six attempts behind an inconsistent offensive line.
Platte County senior Joe Nicholson continued to anchor the line at left tackle, while senior Caleb Kelley (left guard), senior Connor Harmon (center) and sophomore Muyonta Maxwell were in their usual positions. Jaisyn House, a senior, received his third start of the season at right guard, but juniors Sage Lutz and Brody Gates also received looks with the first string.
“Our backups have to be able to come in and play the way we want them to and how they practiced all week,” Utz said. “That’s something we expect them to be able to meet the expectations there, and I think those guys actually did.”
Platte County didn’t show signs of the eventual struggles in a blistering fast start.
With Rhoden out, Utz also received necessary looks at a couple of kickers, starting with sophomore Gage Fulk handling the opening kickoff. He helped pin Raytown South at its own 16, and the first three offensive plays for the Cardinals all went for negative or zero yards. The ensuing punt went just 12 yards, and Nate Walls scored on a 20-yard run around left end on the Pirates’ first offensive snap, but a failed two-point conversion left it at 6-0.
Raytown South completed a pass on the first play of its second drive for 5 yards to cross the 20 for the first time, but two straight incompletions, including a dropped potential interception from Scott on third down, led to another quick punt. Fowler blocked this one, and Platte County took over at the Cardinals’ 14. After a run for minus-1 yard from Nate Walls, Parsons hit Salzman for a 15-yard touchdown pass, but another failed two-point conversion limited the lead to 12-0 after just 3:12 of game action.
“That’s just what we like to do,” Mitchell said, “like to come out every week, let them know we’re running things and then usually they just lay down for us.”
Platte County punted on its next possession but then scored touchdowns on two consecutive drives to expand the lead to 27-0.
A 40-yard completion from Parsons to Magnuson down the right sideline set up the Pirates’ third touchdown. A Raytown South defender just managed to keep Magnuson from his fourth score of the year with a push out at the 1, and Nate Walls scored on the next play from 1 yard out to make it 19-0 late in the first quarter when senior reserve defensive back Parker Hall made the first of two extra points on the night.
Smith-Dean’s’s fifth interception of the season ended Raytown South’s next drive and set Platte County up with a short field. However, the Pirates needed 30 yards on two 15-yard penalties to do most of the work, and Nate Walls converted a fourth and 2 at the 4 and scored from the 1 on the next play.
Parsons ran in the two-point conversion, and Platte County led 27-0 with 10:27 left before halftime, seemingly in position to absolutely bury Raytown South but instead let the Cardinals hang around.
“We didn’t execute the way we wanted to come out here,” Brody Fulk said, “but any time you come out here and win by 36, a win’s a win. But we’ve definitely got to come out and fix some things next week.”
A 20-yard run from Nate Walls on the next drive set up Platte County for another potential score, but 20 yards in penalties negate that and eventually torpedoed a promising possession. Parsons briefly left the field on the drive after a 6-yard scramble up the visitors’ sideline that ended with him leading his shoulder into a Raytown South defender, but he returned for a fourth down incompletion that ended with a post-play personal foul penalty that allowed the Cardinals to take over near midfield.
This set up Raytown South’s only touchdown of the game plus the two-point conversion that cut the deficit to 19 points with 4:55 left before halftime.
Platte County allowed a season-high for points in a season-opening 42-14 loss to Class 6-No. 7 ranked Park Hill South (8-0) and lost 20-10 to Smithville, but the Pirates also have shutouts of Winnetonka, Ruskin and North Kansas City (29-0). They also held Kearney to just three points, while Grandview’s only points in a 24-7 loss came on an interception return for a touchdown.
“I think it’s a hard game to play,” Utz said. “The way our schedule sets up, it’s very top heavy, and I think coming off the last couple of games and being successful, going into this, it makes it a difficult week to practice. I think there’s a lot of distractions we had internally, and it kind of showed tonight.”
Platte County eventually hit an unhappy locker room back up 27 and put the game out of reach early in the third quarter.
With the win, Platte County finished at 5-1 in Blue Division play and head into the regular season finale back home at Pirate Stadium vs. Lansing (2-5), which has lost three straight, having won three straight since a loss to unbeaten and Class 4 No. 1-ranked Smithville cost them a shot at another conference title. The Pirates still trail No. 9-ranked Fort Osage (7-1) for the top seed in Class 5 District 8 with the Indians at 41.89 points and Platte County in second at 41.31.
In a shakeup last week, Staley moved into third (3-4, 32.43), North Kansas City dropped to fourth (3-5, 29.57) with William Chrisman (3-5, 28.24), Oak Park (3-5, 28.08) and St. Joseph Central (1-7, 17.83) rounding out the sevens-team standings. The only team locked into a spot at this point seems to be Central at No. 7, and tiebreaker scenarios where teams lower in the rankings move up via head-to-head wins could come into play with North Kansas City having a win over Staley, but Oak Park having a win over North Kansas City.
Plenty of potential movement could happen based on this week’s results, but Platte County will soon have an answer on whether it will have District 8’s first-round bye for a second straight year or a match up with Central a week from Friday.
“I think no matter what happens, I think we’re just going to go out, play our game, do what we do and leave it there,” Mitchell said.