When Platte County went down to the 1-yard line and threatened to go up by two touchdowns about halfway through the third quarter, Harrisonville didn’t fold.
Last year, the Pirates walked all over Harrisonville, 49-0. And after driving down the field for an easy score after halftime, it looked like the second half could have been a repeat.
But the Wildcats held the Pirates to a field goal and put up a fight to end, falling 20-12 at Memorial Stadium.
“We used that as motivation this week,” said Harrisonville head coach Brent Maxwell said of last year’s loss. “We just have to keep battling every week to get better, and I thought we came out and did that fairly well tonight. We just have a lot of inexperienced players in key positions right now. They are battling.”
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The Wildcats struck first on a pitch to running back Joe Bowers from the 11, going up 6-0.
Then it seemed the momentum swung at the end of the half. A short punt gave the Pirates the ball on the 33, and they went up 7-6 with 37 ticks left before the break.
Getting the ball first after intermission, the Pirates got a good kick return and scored on a four-play drive, running on the Wildcats to go up 14-6.
A Wildcat four-and-out gave the ball back to the Pirates. Quarterback Tanner Clarkson hit John Watts, a 6-foot-5 receiver, at the 21. It took a group of Wildcats to keep Watts out of the end zone.
Harrisonville’s defense stuffed two runs by Adel Freitek, and on third down, Jasper Davis broke up a pass attempt in the end zone, forcing a field goal.
“That’s huge,” Maxwell said, “because we could have easily at that point just said, ‘You know what, just let them score. This game’s over.’ But we just talked about battling all week. Our guys, they know how to win. We’ll get there.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, Harrisonville capitalized on a miscue. Isaiah Patrick recovered a bad snap by the Pirates. Wyatt Reynolds scored on the next play on a four-yard run to close within 17-12. Reynolds got tackled on the two-point conversion try shy of the goal line.
The Pirates ran the clock on their drive with Michael Smith running the ball seven times, getting down to the Wildcat 15. But again, the defense held them to a field goal, leaving Harrisonville down 20-12 with only 33 seconds left to play.
Starting quarterback Ryan Byrd, and Bowers hit Davis on back-to-back throws to get down to the Pirate 20 with time for only one play. Bowers scrambled to his right, but Platte County’s Nolan Saale quickly came off the left edge and sacked Bowers to end the game and send the Wildcats on a two-game losing streak.
Last year, Harrisonville suffered a three-game skid that began with the thrashing by the Pirates before making a run to win the Class 4 title.
Considering that, Maxwell said it’s not time for the Wildcats to panic.
“Not yet,” he said. “It is what it is, and I think we improved from last week to this week. We’ve just got some areas we’ve got to get better at. We’ll go back to work on Monday and try to get some of those thing ironed out. And you never know what’s going to hold, but that’s what makes this fun.”
Byrd went 10-for -15 throwing for 202 yards. 131 of those yards came in the first half. Davis hauled in seven receptions for 167 yards.
The downfall for the Wildcats in the first half was turnovers.
“That’s very promising,” Maxwell said of the offense in the first half. “I felt like first half we did a pretty good job of moving the football; we just shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers. It’s tough to beat good teams like Platte County whenever you turn the ball over.”
On three consecutive offensive plays, the Wildcats put the ball on the ground, losing two of those to the Pirates. After the Wildcats drove down to the Pirate red zone, Reynolds lost a fumble, and Davis got stripped after making a one-handed catch downfield for a big gain.
To avoid another three-game losing streak, the Wildcats (2-2) will have to beat 4-0 Excelsior Springs Friday at 7 pm at home.