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Behind the scenes: Notes,
quotes, and commentary

Eating packets of mustard key for Frogge

by Greg Hall
Landmark columnist

The Platte County Pirates won their 42nd game in a row and racked up their third straight Class 3 state title with a 34-13 win over Salem in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis Saturday. Read on for some notes, quotes and commentary from the Pirates' camp in St. Louis.

•Bill Schuchardt, Salem’s head coach, shocked me during the postgame press conference when he talked about setting goals - or not setting goals. “I’ve never set it as a goal to win the state championship,” stated Schuchardt. “I just hope that we play well enough to get here. So I guess you could say I’ve never missed my goal.” Salem lost in the semifinals last year and was defeated by Platte County for the title in 2000. After three consecutive years of knocking on the goal post, I think it’s time for Schuchardt to take the plunge and have his team commit their efforts to winning a state championship.

•Speaking of Schuchardt’s postgame press conference, things got a bit lively when I questioned his decision to continue to run the football despite being down by three touchdowns most of the second half. “We have found that we can score faster on the ground than through the air,” explained Schuchardt. I reminded him that his team was only able to score on Platte County once he decided to throw to his tight end, who was running free in the Pirates’ secondary. I also stated that his quarterback, Tyler Dillon, showed a very nice arm on the few long aerials he was allowed to toss. Schuchardt was unflappable. “That’s just how we play,” he answered. “I’m just not smart enough to throw the ball. I don’t know the passing game well enough.”

•Platte County has won three consecutive Class 3 titles with three different starting quarterbacks. That is an amazing feat, especially when you consider how much of the Pirates’ offense depends on the quarterback’s ability to read the defense. “We’ve basically done this with three different teams,” explained Chip Sherman, the Pirates’ head coach. “Brandon Gutshall was best at reading, reacting and adjusting to defenses. Robbie Campbell was a very, very good athlete. Robbie also audibled very well. Hawk (Chris Hawkins) did a wonderful job this year. He threw it when we needed it thrown and he ran the team well. For a young kid, he handled the pressure of that position very, very well. Hawk is only going to get better because he works so hard.”

•Some wishbone-loving Salem fans sported t-shirts that read, “2002 Bone-A-Fide Contenders.” The backside of the shirts read, “48 more minutes.” Hopefully they can get a refund for their faulty merchandise.

•There is a good reason the Show-Me Bowl is played indoors at the Edward Jones Dome each November. It’s called winter. Fans had to contend with a bone-cold 44-mph wind out of the northwest while walking from the parking lot to the stadium. It was enough to dissipate any hometown thoughts I may have harbored for an Arrowhead Show-Me Bowl experience.

•Coach Sherman chastised Aaron Bernard, the Pirates’ fullback, for fumbling at the Salem nine-yard line on the Pirates’ first drive of the game. He also lit into Bernard for lining up incorrectly in an unbalanced offensive set. “Get focused and get your head in the game,” Sherman barked at his senior on the Pirates’ sideline. Sherman doesn’t play favorites when it comes to discipline. Bernard must have listened because he closed out his career as a Pirate in style with a 50-yard dash into the end zone with 2:25 remaining in the game.

•Why does Travis Frogge gobble little packets of Burger King mustard throughout the game? “Coach K (Chris Kendrick) told me that mustard was a good way to prevent muscle cramps,” says Frogge, who was hindered by cramping late in the semifinal contest against Seneca. “He said it gives you instant energy. It might not work but it gives me a psychological edge. I didn’t cramp up once (Saturday),” said Frogge.

•Word on the Platte County bench was that the reason Nick Jaros changed his jersey number at halftime from 6 to 39 was to confuse the Salem defense because they were keying on him. Jaros swears that it was because his jersey ripped under the right armpit. “My dad tried to sew it up but he’s no Martha Stewart, you know,” said Jaros.

•Matt Prout’s 91-yard run should solidify his position on the Missouri Class 3 All-State team. “Once I get over 70 yards I usually die…but not today,” said a happy Prout. The play called in the huddle was ‘Jets 34.’ “I just read the right tackle and there was a huge hole that opened up,” said Prout. “I really only had one guy to beat but what was he, a safety? Those are the sized guys I like to have a hand on me. I’ve been caught two or three times in the past and I was thinking, ‘I’m not getting caught this time!’ About the 30- or 40-yard-line I turned it up a gear and said to myself, ‘No one is taking this one away.’”

•Prout is thinking about furthering his education at an Ivy League school and maybe playing in the Harvard/Yale game some day. “But my family would like me to go to Missouri,” admitted Prout. The senior carries a 4.0 GPA and will graduate at the top of his class. I can’t think of a better ambassador for the state of Missouri to send back east.

•Coach Sherman has worn the same pair of faded black sweat pants for all three Platte County state title wins at the Dome. “They’re all ripped up, my underwear’s showing but I’m staying with them,” said Sherman. “They work.”

•Platte County’s first and only punt of the game came with 5:42 left in the fourth quarter. When you consider that this was the state championship game and not just another regular-season rollover, that is quite an impressive stat.

•Don’t get the idea that the team heads off to St. Louis each Thanksgiving and is housed in some posh hotel setting. The Missouri State High School Association pays for only 15 rooms for each team that qualifies for the Show-Me Bowl. The Pirates brought about 65 players, coaches and staff members. “We had four and five kids to a room,” said Coach Sherman. “My fat ass was sleeping on the floor (Friday) night and (Greg) Jaros slept in a chair.”

•Yes, that was Tom Morgan you saw on the Pirate sideline in St. Louis. He retired to central Florida five years ago after serving Platte County as a teacher and coach for 32 years. “I missed the last two (title games) but I had a free three-day weekend this year,” said Morgan. “So I booked a flight as soon as they beat Seneca.” Tom had been following the Pirates’ progress all season on the Internet.

•The Pirates’ postgame feed included 70 pizzas for the players and coaches. “Everybody should get their own pizza,” cracked Coach Sherman.

•Jeff Humburg, Plate County’s vibrant assistant coach, wants the players to know that he also played in the state tourney when he was in high school near Cocoa Beach, Florida. “I played at Merritt Island High School,” said Humburg. “It’s where Cape Kennedy is. We went to state my senior year and took on Fort Lauderdale Dillon. They kicked us, 40 - 14. Isaac Bruce was on that team and they had three other guys who are playing in the NFL right now. I weighed maybe 210 and played defensive end.” Since Humburg played the same position as Travis Frogge, I asked him if he would have started in front of Frogge if the two had been teammates. “I gotta say yes,” said a smiling Humburg. He then quickly added that Frogge is a very special player. “Players like him don’t come around very often,” said Humburg.
Quotes of Note

•“We run out on the Astroturf and it’s all nice and 24 minutes later we’re getting thumped. … The scheme works. We can move the football. We just need to attack them one play at a time.”
Bill Schuchardt, Salem’s head coach, during his halftime speech to his team as the Pirates led 21-0 at the half

•“That’s what they said after we won it in 2000. It’s somebody else’s turn to step up (next season).”
Chip Sherman, when asked if a four-peat was too much to shoot for in 2003

•“Those (Platte County) running backs are man-childs. And they are tough to stop. If anybody knows how to stop them, let me know.”
Bill Schuchardt, Salem’s head coach, during the postgame press conference
GH: I like Schuchardt. I don’t agree with his one-dimensional offensive philosophy but I like the way he treats his players and how willing he is to answer tough questions.

•“(Platte County) hit a lot harder and were quicker than anybody we played against but I wasn’t a bit scared of them.”
Tyler Dillon, Salem’s senior quarterback
GH: Schuchardt introduced the 6-foot-4 Dillon as “the best option quarterback in the state of Missouri.” Remember his name. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him show up in the MIAA next year.

•“It’s kinda hot in here for it. I’m about to take it off because I’m about to roast.”
Dr. Carl Myers, Pirates’ team trainer, on wearing his lucky Platte County Class of 1968 letterman jacket inside the Dome
GH: Myers claims the Pirates have never lost a game since he started wearing his vintage jacket on the sidelines. Come to think of it, they haven’t lost since a whole helluva lot of things!

•“I’m hoping that when I have kids I can bring them back to Platte County and show them my picture on the wall as a state champion.”
Travis Frogge, Platte County’s All-State defensive end
GH: Frogge said he’s going to “wait and consider my options,” as far as picking a college football scholarship. He’s talked to both Kansas and Missouri. Some think Frogge’s height (6-foot-1) might keep him from turning many Division-I programs’ heads. Mark my words, this kid can play in the Big 12. If I’m Mark Mangino, I’m offering Frogge a full ride today before the rest of the conference finds out just how good he is.

•“When you’re waiting your turn to play and you’re not the one getting the ball at the time, you’ve got to let that feeling build inside of you and be your motivator. Then, when you get your chance, you’ve got to just break it open and do whatever you can. I’ve been waiting for my chance for several years. When I first came into the program, most of the coaches wanted me to play in the line. But Coach Sherman was kinda my guy. He made sure that I was a fullback. I loved blocking for Zach (Sherman) last year but I couldn’t wait to get my chance to run the ball.”
Matt Prout, Platte County’s senior running back
GH: If you’re an underclassmen or a youngster who wants to play on the varsity some day, clip out Prout’s words and tack them to your bulletin board. State champions don’t just roll out of bed and run 91-yards in the Show-Me Bowl. They work hard for years, fail a lot, get disappointed — but most of all they never give up on their dream.

•“Our juniors are real athletic. We’ll put people in different positions and see how it goes. Our main goal is always to win the state championship and it will be again next year.”
Chris Hawkins, Platte County’s junior quarterback

•“It’s gonna be tough on everybody when Platte County does finally lose a game. It’s gonna be real tough on the kids because they haven’t tasted it. If we had lost this game it would have been devastating in that locker room. But I think every coach would have told these kids to keep their heads held high because they are winners.”
Steve Myers, Platte County assistant coach

•“We’ve got a thing called the Polar Bear Club. It’s the weight room in the winter time for kids who aren’t out for a winter sport.”
Coach Steve Myers, Platte County assistant coach

•“This year it was the ‘Bull’s-eye Tour,’ because our eyes were on the prize the whole time. Last year it was the ‘Come Get Some Tour’ and the year before that it was the ‘Kick Ass Tour.’”
Coach Jeff Humburg, the 31-year-old Platte County assistant coach

•“Not that we’re all looking or anything like that, but we all have goals of our own. I want to be a head coach just like Coach (Chuck) Siler does. I’ve got two young boys and we all live in Atchison, Kansas. I would ultimately like to be the head coach there and coach my boys just like Chip did.”
Coach Jeff Humburg

•“We would support them 100 per cent. They are loyal, they’re trustworthy, they’re good, good men. When their time comes and they want to venture out and become a head coach somewhere, they have my total support and my total loyalty. I will help them any way I possibly can.”
Coach Chip Sherman, on any assistant coaches who decide to apply for a head coaching position elsewhere

•“We’ve been together a long time. The truth of the matter is we’ve just got to see what happens. I don’t want to say something that’s not true. I just want to tell you the truth. It’s just too early right now.”
Coach Chip Sherman, when asked if he and Greg Jaros would both be back next season
GH: Everything eventually comes to an end. If this is the final chapter to the Sherman/Jaros era, it is one heckuva way to go out. If not, let’s go get number four.

•“(Dr. Pat Henley) was the superintendent who hired me. It was an interesting interview. I don’t think they asked me a real football question the whole time. At first I wasn’t going to take the job because they hadn’t won much. But my wife wanted to raise our kids in a small town and where our family could be a family and I agreed with her.”
Coach Chip Sherman

•“Everyone who has ever played football at Platte County or cared about Platte County has a piece of what we do. They all share in this. I really mean that. I can’t emphasize that enough. I am so proud to say that I’m a part of this and this family.”
Coach Chip Sherman