BARNARD, Mo. — It has been a difficult road in building the Platte Valley football program. Head coach Cree Beverlin and his staff have suffered far more losses than wins in their first few years. Saturday afternoon’s 42-26 win over the DeKalb Tigers was the first homecoming win for Beverlin and his seniors.
“It feels good, kind of a sigh of relief and a chance to kind of exhale a little bit,” Beverlin said. “We had told people we were improved, the boys thought we were improved and other coaches told us we were improved. But there for a while we were starting to wonder and I think today against a DeKalb team that is better than they have been in a few years, not only is it a good homecoming win but a good win for us against a competitive team.”
The win was not only important for the coaching staff, but for the seniors who hadn’t been successful in prior homecoming games. Senior running back Dalton Luke made the most of his final homecoming game, rushing for 180 yards on 23 carries while finding the end zone five times.
“Today feels amazing, we finally got a win under our belt after three years of losing homecoming,” Dalton Luke said. “It means a lot to me with it being my last homecoming and for us to go out like this.”
Luke returned the opening kickoff down to the DeKalb 21-yard line. Platte Valley then rushed the ball three times for six yards, bringing up a fourth and three. Quarterback Patrick O’Connor’s pass on fourth down fell incomplete, squandering the good field position.
The Tigers offense relies heavily on their running game, and DeKalb proved that on their first drive. The Tiger offense ran the ball nine times for 38 yards. DeKalb had a 35-yard touchdown run called back due to a holding call.
Carter Luke then mad back-to-back tackles that forced the Tigers into a fourth and 17. Quarterback Wyatt Ashpaugh’s pass fell incomplete on the fourth down attempt.
Platte Valley took advantage of their opportunity this time, beginning with a 15-yard run by O’Connor. Dalton Luke took the next carry 32 yards for a Platte Valley touchdown.
The Valley’s kickoff team pinned the Tigers down at their own eight-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. DeKalb went right back to their running game with three players carrying the ball for a total of eight yards. The Platte Valley defense then forced a fumble on the fourth and one attempt. The ball was recovered by Dalton Luke.
For the second time in three possessions, the Valley’s offense took over inside the Tigers’ 25-yard line and for the second time, the offense turned the ball over on downs. O’Connor’s passes on both third and fourth down fell incomplete.
DeKalb’s Asphugh and running back Darrin McElfresh went back to work with the ground game. The two Tigers combined for 13 yards on the offense’s first five plays. On the sixth, McElfresh took the carry 57 yards for a DeKalb touchdown.
Led by their two seniors, the Platte Valley offense answered with a score of their own. O’Connor completed his first pass of the game to Trevor McQueen for 12 yards and a first down. Dalton Luke took the next three carries for a combined 16 yards.
O’Connor rushed the ball twice inside the DeKalb 10-yard line, getting the ball down to the one. Dalton Luke then finished the scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown.
The Valley forced the game’s first three-and-out on the Tigers’ next drive. The Platte Valley offense moved the ball with ease deep into DeKalb territory, but a Carter Luke fumble brought the drive to a screeching halt.
The Tigers took over with a minute and 23 seconds left in the half. Asphaugh connected with Tyler Matson on the team’s first play, gaining 27 yards. DeKalb then went back to the run game, carrying the ball three-straight times for 12 yards. Asphaugh and the offense caught the Platte Valley defense off guard as McElfresh caught a 34-yard touchdown.
“We thought run, run, run and I thought we did a pretty good job of responding to the run,” Beverlin said. “But we didn’t do a very good job there for a while responding to their passing and those are little mistakes that we just have to keep improving on.”
O’Connor and the offense took over with just under 30 seconds left in the half. McQueen drew a defensive holding call on Platte Valley’s first pass attempt. The attempt was intercepted, draining most of the time that was left in the half. With just seven seconds left, O’Connor threw up a hail mary to McQueen in the end zone. McQueen, surrounded by two defenders, came down with the pass for a 37-yard touchdown.
“I was like, either I’m going to run the ball or throw it down to Trevor like Aaron Rodgers,” O’Connor said.
The Valley defense held its own against the DeKalb rushing attack for the most part. It was the Tigers’ passing offense that continued to give the defense trouble in the second half. After gaining just four yards on two carries, DeKalb moved the ball deep into Platte Valley territory with a 40-yard pass.
McElfresh moved the ball inside the five-yard line with a 12-yard carry, setting the Tigers up with a first and goal. Cole McElfresh then tied the game at 20 with a three-yard touchdown run.
“They’ve got some big linemen who pull hard and we practiced all week trying to stop the run but they threw in a few passes,” O’Connor said.
After the DeKalb score, the two offenses traded long drives that ended with them turning the ball over on downs. With 11:44 left in the game, Dalton Luke took the first play of the Platte Valley drive 70 yards for his third touchdown.
The Valley’s onside kick attempt on the ensuing kickoff was recovered by Carter Luke, giving Platte Valley the ball at the DeKalb 22-yard line. Dalton Luke finished off the Luke-led drive with a 17-yard touchdown to give Platte Valley a 34-20 lead.
“Dalton shows that he is a good person and a good role model,” Carter Luke said. “He’s a good person to look up to and he teaches me a lot.”
Darrin McElfresh cut the lead to eight on DeKalb’s next drive with a 15-yard touchdown run. McElfresh had a big day against the Platte Valley defense; the senior back carried the ball 29 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns. McElfresh also caught three passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Dalton Luke put the game away on his fifth rushing touchdown with just over two minutes left in the game. McQueen ended any chance of a Tigers’ comeback with an interception on DeKalb’s final drive.
Platte Valley finished with 261 rushing yards on 44 carries. Coming into Saturday’s game, The Valley averaged 180 rushing yards per game. O’Connor was three of eight for 72 yards and a touchdown.
“Everything we worked on all week in practice we did, we didn’t have any real dumb penalties and it felt great,” O’Connor said.
Next week Platte Valley will attempt to do something they haven’t done since 2014—win back-to-back games. The Valley will face a Stewartsville team that has lost six in a row and is coming off a 62-0 loss to East Atchison. The Cardinals lone win came in week one against North Nodaway.
“We can’t put the cart before the horse, it was a good win and I think we are improved, but we’re still at the point where we have to treat everybody as an equal or better,” Beverlin said.