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Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2014

COLUMN - TO BE THE BEST, YOU'VE GOT TO BEAT THE BEST

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

They dominated the state championship last year and they've been favored to repeat all season.

They've won 27 games in a row, 39 of their last 40, and have trailed for just three minutes all year.

They're the undefeated, No. 1 ranked Platte County Pirates. So New Madrid County Central, do you want a shot at the state's best 3A team?

You got it.

Platte County suffered its last loss two years ago, 14-0 to eventual state champion Aurora. Now the Eagles look to do what 27 other teams have failed miserably at ever since.

Contain 2,500-yard running back Zach Sherman...stop quarterback Rob Campbell, who has thrown for over 1,200 and calls his own audibles at the line of scrimmage...score on noseguard Aaron Bernard and a defense that has allows just 5.4 points per game...throw on Nick Jaros and a secondary that has intercepted 14 passes.

Good luck.

On Saturday the Pirates flexed their muscle for all the state to see, knocking the function out of Carl Junction, 36-6. Platte County made the 10-2 semifinal team look more like the 1928 Illmo Bearcats.

Junction was held to one first down in the first half and moved the ball over midfield only twice in the game.

"They had athletes that we haven't played against all year -- better linebackers, better ends," Junction coach Mark Hoekstra told the Joplin Globe after the game.

Ironically, at the exact same time miles and miles away, Salem coach Bill Schuchardt was giving me a similar quote after his team fell victim to NMCC's high-risk, high-reward offense.

"The team that had the best athletes won," he said. So how do NMCC's athletes stack up against Platte County's athletes? If anybody would know, it would be Schuchardt. His squad lost to Platte County in the championship game last year, and he is best friends with their coach Chip Sherman. When asked he smiled, paused for a few seconds, then spoke briefly about each team. He made no predictions.

Was that smile a "This team you cover is going to give Platte County all it wants," type of a smile, or was it a "You country boys are about to catch a merciless beating in front of the whole state," kind of smile?

Personally, I think the defending champs are the team with something to worry about. From day one this has been Platte County's year to repeat.

Beating Chillicothe and Odessa was expected, and so is beating the Eagles. The only catch is NMCC has the talent to pull off an upset.

Standout Dereke Tipler has led the team to this point, and is about to go down statistically as NMCC's best running back ever.

He holds records for career touchdowns (60), touchdowns in a season (37) and rushing yards in a career (3,753). And he's just 44 yards away from Kelvin Anderson's single-season rushing record of 2,134 yards.

In the passing department, Brian Murph and Desmond Sims have found their niche, and the defense continues to play admirably well. All year long the Eagles have banked on their superior athleticism and speed to win games.

But Platte County has used big-play potential to kill people all year too.

As it should be, this will be the toughest challenge of the season for both teams. I like the track record of NMCC's senior class in state championship games.

Final score: NMCC 21, Platte County 20