Park Hill RB hurt during preseason football jamboree

KANSAS CITY, MO. — For teams participating in jamborees, goal No. 1 will always be to come out of the exhibition scrimmages healthy. LEN LEHMANN/Special to The Citizen Park Hill junior defensive end Chester Graves sacks a Raymore-Peculiar quarterback in a preseason jamboree held Friday, Aug. 14 at Park Hill District Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

Park Hill experienced the nightmare scenario Friday, Aug. 14, dealt a big injury blow when last year’s leading rusher for the Trojans ended up carted off the field at Park Hill District Stadium. Matt Harris, a senior running back, injured his knee in the first set of plays against Raymore-Peculiar.

Park Hill coach Josh Hood said he would know more on the extent of the injury after receiving the results of the MRI. Harris, who accrued more than 1,400 yards on the ground a season ago, will miss at least Park Hill’s Week 1 matchup, scheduled for Friday, Aug. 21 at Blue Springs South, and could miss more time after leaving with his knee on ice and heavily bandaged.

“We always say we want to stay healthy,” Hood said, “but that’s not in our capacity. We wanted to come out and be in the right position. With our 1s, we were in the right position a little more. We feel like we had a chance to play everybody. We were able to put some guys on the sideline and let some other guys go to work and battle and see who is going to win a (starting) job.

“We’re eager to see that on film. I’m interested to see who won those position battles and who’s going to be at the forefront on Friday night.”

After the injury, the energy quickly disappeared from Park Hill sideline. Many stoic faces were dotted around in reaction to the loss of a projected senior leader.

Zach Neal, a senior, and Dorian Clayton, a sophomore, both took increased snaps at running back after Harris left. Neal carried the ball 39 times for 290 yards a season ago, including a 100-yard game against Liberty in the Class 5 District 8 semifinals. Clayton touted the ball 74 times for 345 yards as a freshman. His season high came against St. Joseph Central to help the Trojans lock up at least a share of the Suburban Conference Red Division title.

“We don’t have any word on Matt so we don’t know where he is,” Hood said. “That stuff isn’t what matters. We should be in a position mentality-wise where we are able to move forward. We feel that’s a position where we’ve had some great athletes. A couple of guys have the opportunity to step up. It is time for them to step to the forefront.”

No official stats or score were kept for the jamboree, which consists of 18 plays on offense and 18 plays on defense against other teams. Each scrimmage featured 10 plays starting from the 35, and four each from the 20- and 10- yard lines and returned there after scores and turnovers.

Last year, Blue Springs South also participated in Park Hill’s jamboree but bowed out after their own injury woes a season ago. Park Hill also scrimmaged Liberty.

“What we have thrived off of this summer is executing with effort and attitude,” Hood said. “We tell these kids every day, ‘Don’t make us responsible for coaching effort and attitude.’ Tonight was our first chance to show other teams how we’ve been preparing. I felt like we didn’t bring the mentality we needed.”

On the other end of the field, Park Hill South saw its first action under new coach Mike Sharp.

The Panthers also received a look at new quarterback Zach Suchanick, a junior who takes over under center after the graduation of Shaefer Schuetz — the school’s all-time leading passer. They scrimmaged against Raymore-Peculiar and Raytown.

“We have a long way to go,” Sharp said. “We’re still continuing to build the mental toughness we’ve talked about in the past. We’re not there yet but tonight was a good way to evaluate a bunch of guys really, really quick.”

Park Hill South opens its season at home against Lee’s Summit North on Friday, Aug. 21 at Park Hill District Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Broncos 16-13 last season before a stretch of four straight losses followed, including losses to Platte County and Park Hill.