Harrisonville knew that Platte County had a tendency to throw passes.
So, the Wildcats spent all week preparing their defensive backs to pressure the Pirate wide receivers and the plan worked. Harrisonville won the Class 4 quarterfinal game 28-7 Nov. 10 at Harrisonville.
“The whole week we have been game planning because they like to pass a lot and we knew that would be one our first tests,” Harrisonville senior defensive back Jameson Knox said. “...I am just happy we pulled it out.”
The first half was a struggle for both teams to get any offense going, especially for the Wildcats who would get a drive started but only be stalled by penalties.
“I was every bit concerned the first half when things weren’t going right,” Harrisonville head coach Chuck Lliteras said. “...Platte County was too good of a football team to keep them around in that situation.”
Harrisonville finally saw the end zone with just six seconds left in the first half as junior running back Austin Hopper punched the ball in from 1-yard out for a touchdown. After senior Tanner Foerschler’s point after kick, the Wildcats led 7-0 at halftime.
In the start of the third quarter, the Pirates had possession, but the defensive pressure forced Platte County to run the ball, not getting them too far down the field. And their punt was blocked and picked up by senior defensive back Walter Eastwood and carried down to the 4-yard line. Hopper finished the drive for a touchdown, putting Harrisonville ahead at 14-0.
“I think that Platte County underestimated our passing offense and I think they didn’t take into consideration that we can throw the ball when we want to throw the ball and not when we have to throw the ball,” Lliteras said. ‘They want to come down there and play tight against our running game and we don’t have any problems throwing the football...Our defense played really well against them. We took what they wanted to do away and forced them to do some things which they didn’t want to do, which they aren’t very good at and we were able to capitalize.”
On the kickoff, Platte County fumbled the return, which was recovered by Harrisonville senior defensive back Tyler Bundt on the 24-yard line. The Wildcats couldn’t score on that possession, but Knox intercepted a Platte County pass and took it in for a 19-yard touchdown to give Harrisonville a 21-0 lead with a whole quarter to go.
In the fourth quarter, after forcing the Pirates to turn over the ball on downs due to three incomplete passes and a sack, junior quarterback Zach Davidson connected with freshman wide receiver Wyatt Schenker for a 66-yard touchdown, putting the Wildcats up 28-0 with 10:13 left to play.
“The defensive backs played very well,” Lliteras said. “Anytime we can play press coverage and defensively do what we want to do in a pressure game, it makes for a good game plan.”
The Pirates finally scored after capitalizing on a fumble recovery later in the fourth quarter as senior quarterback James Valentine connected with senior wide receiver Austin Gilbert for a 10-yard pass to make the final score 28-7.
Harrisonville, 11-2, hosts Helias (Jefferson City), 10-4, in the Class 4 semifinal game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17. The Wildcats slipped past Helias 38-37 in overtime in the first game of the season.
“It’s been about 12 weeks since we played them last,” Knox said. “Things are different. They have new formations, new schemes. We just have to play like we did the first time and we will be alright.”
Lliteras hopes that the team, which is a little banged up right now, takes the entire week to rest and prepare for the game.
“They are a passing team and they are really aggressive on defense,” Lliteras said. “It’s going to be a really good rematch.”
“I’m excited,” Knox added. “One more game. Just one more game.”