Black Panthers pounce in second half to top Beavers
PLATTE -- Platte-Geddes’ special teams unit was, in fact, special.
In a defensive battle on Thursday, a pair of special teams plays decided a 17-8 Class 9AA quarterfinal win over Hanson, as the Black Panthers knocked off the Beavers for a second straight year.
Jackson Olsen booted a 31-yard field goal with plenty of extra distance to give Platte-Geddes an 11-8 lead with 5 minutes, 14 seconds to play. On the ensuing kickoff, he kicked it down the left sideline, allowing the kickoff unit to recover the ball and set up Kelby VanDerWerff’s 1-yard quarterback sneak touchdown to ice the game a few minutes later.
“The field goal was pretty good,” said Olsen, who is 3-for-3 on field goals with a 41-yarder this year. “My job is to kick, but my guys have to block up front. My center’s got to snap it right and my holder’s got to hold it. When everybody does their job, it’s great.”
That unit left a lasting mark through the full 48-minute contest. Caden Foxley booted long punts through the wind inside the 10-yard during a crucial field-position contest in the first half.
“I’ve said it all year long: Our kicking game is great,” Platte-Geddes coach Bruce Hanson said. “We have an all-state punter in Caden Foxley, who had a couple of rockets tonight. … (Olsen) had a 41-yarder for us earlier in the year.”
Platte-Geddes (10-0) didn’t take advantage of any winning field-position battle, as the high-powered offense trailed 8-0 at halftime. Its closest scoring chance came in the second quarter when a 35-yard touchdown pass was nullified by a holding penalty.
Hadley Wallace, who rushed for a game-high 93 yards, punctuated Hanson’s first drive of the game with a 9-yard touchdown run, but as Platte-Geddes brought up its linebackers, the Beavers’ (7-3) offense stalled, too. Even though Hanson had three interceptions, it struggled to cross midfield.
“They were getting to our backers,” Hanson said. “We were shooting underneath the pulls, and then we just switched it up a little bit. Had our guys go one-on-one and I think that helped us.”
It took until the second half for Platte-Geddes to find the same success on offense. It focused more on running the ball, rather than taking shots downfield. Jackson Neuman was the beneficiary of the change, with a 26-yard touchdown run on its first drive of the second half.
“The coaches changed the game plan, so we got it going in the second half,” said Neuman, who had a team-high 49 rushing yards.
It took a couple of special teams plays and Grayson Hanson (48 rushing yards) running the wildcat for Platte-Geddes to crack the scoreboard again, but its defense remained strong. The closest Hanson got to reaching the red zone again came in the second quarter when Wallace’s 40-yard run to the 9-yard line was called back due to holding.
Olsen and Foxley, who had a team-high 11 tackles, combined for a sack to push Hanson even farther back down nine points late in the fourth quarter. Nate Whalen ended the game on the next possession with an interception.
Myles Kott had 10 tackles and Chase Varilek added nine tackles for Platte-Geddes. Noah Price and Toby Hagg each had eight tackles for the Beavers.
“Our guys don’t stop and watch each other,” Olsen said. “We go until the whistle, and I think that helps us a lot.”
Now, Platte-Geddes gets a rematch with Viborg-Hurley in the semifinals. Viborg-Hurley ended the Black Panthers’ season in last year’s quarterfinals, and that’s still on their mind.
“(Playing Viborg-Hurley has) been the goal since Day 1,” Hanson said. “... We knew if we took care of our business, that’s the team everybody has to beat to win the championship. They’re a great team. We’re going to come out and fire everything we can at them.”