Park Hill South, Park Hill football suffer season-opening losses

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo ABOVE: Park Hill South junior wide receiver Jake Springer, left, attempts to haul in a pass from junior quarterback Zach Suchanick in the Panthers’ season-opener against Lee’s Summit North on Friday, Aug. 21 at Park Hill District Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a lackluster offensive first half, Park Hill South junior Jake Springer helped the Panthers go into the locker room at Park Hill District Stadium tied with a renewed sense of optimism.

A standout wide receiver, Springer caught a pass in the flat from junior quarterback Zach Suchanick and dove up field and into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown with less than a minute before halftime. The momentum didn’t hold up, and Lee’s Summit North came back with two unanswered touchdowns in a 21-7 win Friday, Aug. 21.

“It gave a lot of life,” Springer said. “We were looking to tie it up and I’m glad we did it with little time left to go. We were super pumped coming into the second half the Broncos just had a little bit more intensity.”

Springer made 19 catches for 228 yards in four games last year before missing the second half of the season. As a freshman, he caught 39 passes for 430 yards and five touchdowns, and a lot of that hinted potential showed up again in Park Hill South coach Mike Sharp’s debut against the Class 6 Broncos. Springer even lined up at quarterback in the wildcat formation trying to provide a spark in the fourth quarter.

Lee’s Summit North took a 14-7 lead midway through the third quarter after a 10-yard bulldozing run from running back Chase Swisher. The score remained there until Springer looked to provide another tying answer, helping the Panthers pick up two first downs with 12 yards rushing at the quarterback spot.

The drive ended with a turnover on downs, and three plays later, Lee’s Summit North’s Tori Hicks went 50 yards to provide the final points of the game.

“I thought we were going to be able to push on and make a push for the game,” said Sharp, an assistant on previous coach Mark Simcox’s staff for two years before taking over after Simcox’s retirement.

“Unfortunately, we were a little far away. We had some things lined up and put Jake back there as more of a dual threat. It got us moving, but unfortunately, we stalled out.”

On Park Hill South’s final drive, the Panthers suffered another potentially critical loss in the opener after last year’s 3-7 season.

Alfoncio Rand, a senior wide receiver and leading returning pass catcher took a vicious late hit, which forced to leave the game with a head injury. He caught six passes for 67 yards before the injury including a 32-yard connection to set the Panthers up in a goal-to-go situation before Springer’s touchdown catch.

“It’s nice because it got us to an even point,” Sharp said. “We started off extremely slowly. It was just mistakes, things we preach that we can’t do. Unfortunately, the nerves of having so many young guys got us in the beginning. That play and that quarter for us to get even was big for us. It got us tied up and we went from there.”

Suchanick went 9-for-19 for 92 yards and an interception in his debut as starter, taking over for Shaefer Schuetz — the program’s all-time leading passer. He leads Park Hill South into Week 2 against powerhouse Lee’s Summit West, ranked No. 10 in the most recent Missouri media Class 6 poll.

Blue Springs South 14, Park Hill 7

Coming off of a trip to the Class 5 semifinals, the Trojans started their season with a tough loss Friday, Aug. 22 in Blue Springs, Mo., unable to score a potential tying or winning touchdown in the final seconds of a defensive battle.

Park Hill (0-1) dropped from No. 2 in the preseason to No. 5 in the most recent Class 5 Missouri media rankings ahead of a matchup this week with Smithville, receving votes in Class 4 after a season-opening win vs. Pleasant Hill. Last season, Park Hill ran through Blue Springs South and Smithville — part of a 12-0 start to a historic season.

This time around, Blue Springs South, ranked No. 8 in Class 6, jumped out to a 14-0 lead and held Park Hill scoreless until the fourth quarter.

Park Hill sophomore running back Dorian Clayton, who split the bulk of carries with projected starter Matt Harris out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in the preseason jamboree, barreled into the end zone on a fourth-and-2 play with 7½ minutes left. The Trojans wouldn’t score again despite driving to the Jaguars 1-yard line with 26 seconds to play.

Clayton couldn’t score on the first go-to-goal play from the 1, losing yardage, and two incomplete passes from sophomore quarterback Billy Maples sandwiched around a sack doomed Park Hill’s last-ditch effort.

Park Hill gained nearly 300 yards on offense and gave up just 142 on defense. Maples finished with 12 completions on 24 attempts for 167 yards in his first start for the Trojans with wide receiver Quentin Harris hauling in five passes for 96 yards.

Clayton ran 10 times for 28 yards, while Zach Neal also carried 12 times for 57 yards.