Park Hill football busts into Class 5 playoffs

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Park Hill sophomore defensive end Chester Graves (4) busts through a banner during pregame introductions before the Trojans’ Class 5 District 8 championship game against Liberty North on Nov. 7 at Park Hill District Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Park Hill won 17-7 and enters the playoffs at 11-0. KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill quarterback Tyler Holmes went to a knee with 15 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter of the Class 5 District 8 championship game.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Park Hill linebacker Jamaal Brazil, right, lays a hit on Liberty North quarterback Mitchell Miller during the Nov. 7 Class 5 District 8 championship game at Park Hill District Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

The senior’s kneeldown cemented a 17-7 win against Liberty North on Nov. 7 to send the Trojans into the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2006. Park Hill sophomore defensive end Chester Graves set up the easy finish with his second sack and forced fumble of the game a play earlier. Trojans linebacker Trever White recovered the loose ball to provide the final relief in a tenuous matchup.

“The defense played so great,” Holmes said. “They played their hearts out. To watch them and then to go out there and finish the game off like that after the sack and fumble, to be able to go out there and just take a knee, it was a great feeling.”

Holmes’ two tough runs in the fourth quarter helped provide the final margin.

The first — a 23-yard scramble on a third-and-16 play kept a Park Hill drive alive after the Eagles cut the Trojans’ lead to a single possession. The next — a 9-yard scoring run — ended up being the game’s final score with 2:22 to play.

“Tyler really stepped up,” Park Hill coach Josh Hood said. “There were a couple of times we needed him to step up. We thought we had the (read option) during the course of the week. The coaches did a good job calling the (read option). Tyler does a great job running the (read option). He stepped up, took the ball and said, ‘I’m going to go win this game for you guys.’”

Malik James seemingly sealed the game on Liberty North’s next drive with interception near the home sideline with 2:07 left on the clock. The junior cornerback capped an impressive game, which featured five pass breakups including one each on second- and fourth-and-goal plays in the first quarter to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard.

“We just played a great game, and we’re only going to get better from here,” James said. “That’s what really matters right now. It feels great.”

Park Hill (11-0) could not pick up the first down to run out the clock punting back to Liberty North (8-4) with 30 seconds to play and the Eagles still trailing by two scores. Quarterback Mitchell Miller threw two incompletions before taking a monstrous hit on third down for the sack and fumble.

“The guys really worked on stripping the football and attacking the quarterback,” Hood said. “Liberty North’s a great team, and the guys did a great job sacrificing (for the team) for turnovers.”

Park Hill running back Matt Harris recorded his fifth 100-yard rushing performance of the season and eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark overall with a game-high 127 yards on 17 carries. His longest run of the day started the game’s scoring on an 84-yard run through arm tackles to put the Trojans up 7-0 at the 4:34 mark of the second quarter.

Park Hill held Liberty North’s leading rusher Richard Richardson to 79 yards on 22 carries — his lowest output in district play.

The win sets up a date for Park Hill with No. 1-ranked Fort Osage at 7 p.m. on Nov. 14 at Park Hill District Stadium. The Indians survived a scare against Winnetonka to claim the Class 5 District 7 crown last week, scoring the matchup’s final 29 points to win 36-26.

Park Hill is 1-5 all time in the quarterfinals the one win coming in 2003 — the Trojans only state championship.