Park Hill football keeps win streak alive with 3-touchdown barrage

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Park Hill sophomore running back Dorian Clayton skirts by a tackle from St. Joseph Central linebacker Jake Hill on Friday, Oct. 9 at Park Hill District Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Clayton finished with a career-high 168 yards on 17 carries. KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill took just 2 minutes, 1 second of game action to complete a comeback, keeping its winning streak alive and undefeated Suburban Conference Red Division record intact.

After trailing much of the way, the Trojans produced three touchdowns around two turnovers from St. Joseph Central in the second half Friday, Oct. 9 at Park Hill District Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. on the way to a 38-24 come-from-behind victory. Park Hill improved to 7-1 overall (4-0 Suburban Red) with its seventh straight win, remaining in line to win a second straight league title and earning the No. 2 seed in Class 5 District 8 play.

Central led 21-10 at one point in the second quarter, but Park Hill used big defensive plays from Devin Haney and Chester Graves to pitch a second-half shutout and come roaring back.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Park Hill wide receiver DJ Johnson tosses the ball to an official following his 15-yard touchdown catch against St. Joseph Central on Friday, Oct. 9 at Park Hill District Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Park Hill tight end Kyle Blydenburgh extends his arms in celebration in the background.

“That’s the way we play ball,” Park Hill coach Josh Hood said. “We feed off of each other — special teams, defensively and offensively. I felt like we took advantage of some of the things we were doing. Our kids were really smart about what we were trying to do there. It allowed us some quick scores and gave us the lead we needed.”

Park Hill sophomore quarterback Billy Maples capped each of the three quick scoring drives with a touchdown.

The first-year starter hit junior wide receiver Quinton Harris on a 15-yard pass — Harris’ second touchdown of the night — with 59 seconds left in the third quarter to the score at 24-24. On the ensuing kickoff, Haney came up with a fumble on the return, and Maples hit sophomore wide receiver DJ Johnson three plays later on a screen for another 15-yard touchdown pass, giving the Trojans their first lead since the first quarter.

Central took over with 39 seconds left in the third quarter, and three plays later, Indians running back Israel Smith fumbled the ball away for a second turnover in the span of a minute. Maples scrambled in from 9 yards out on the third play of the next possession, just 1:01 into the fourth quarter.

The score held from there, finishing out a wild comeback scenario.

“It was a great game,” said Harris, who had three catches for 30 yards. “It was easily one of the funnest games I’ve been in. Just us not doing so good in the first half, not living up to our full potential, coming out second half and just rolling was a great feeling.”

Park Hill committed four turnovers in the first half, leading to 17 points for the Indians.

A muffed punt led to Central’s first score on an immediate first-and-goal situation, but the Trojans responded with 10 unanswered points — a field goal from Parker Sampson and Harris’ first touchdown catch — to go up 10-7. The Indians’ answered on a 49-yard touchdown run from Smith, and after an interception on a fake punt pass, Central quarterback Jacob Hess threw his second touchdown of the first half to put the Trojans down 21-10.

Smith carried nine times for 108 yards in the first half, finishing with 121 on 18 attempts. Following an interception for Lawrence Wulu, Smith broke off a long run on a draw from Central’s 17, and he ended up dragged down by his facemask at midfield. The 15-yard penalty allowed Indians kicker Austin Jackson to hit a 48-yard field goal — twice — at the end of the half.

A timeout from Hood nullified the first make, but the second extended Central’s lead out to seven.

“We did some things that we have not been prone to do over the last two years,” Hood said. That is, we turned the ball over and we blew some assignments defensively. We lost the special teams battle in the first half. Once we corrected those mistakes and reminded them who they were they played well in the second half.”

Park Hill sophomore running back Dorian Clayton responded with his own strong night, posting his first career 100-yard rushing night, finishing with 168 yards on 17 carries.

In the regular season finale, the Trojans travel to Truman on Friday, Oct. 16 to decide the Red Division title. Both teams enter 4-0 in conference play, and Park Hill seeks a second straight undefeated crown.

Central dropped to 3-5 and 2-2 Red Division play, and a win against the Indians would have kept their hopes alive for a potential split. Instead a couple of turnovers, and quick capitalization helped avoid a potential upset loss for Park Hill, which continues to rank No. 5 in the Missouri media Class 5 poll.

“If we play right and we do our jobs right, we can see how explosive we are,” Clayton said. “I have to give props to the defense. They got us the ball, and we were able to capitalize on it.”

Park Hill South 58, Ruskin 6

The Panthers earned their first win of the season with a drumming of Ruskin on Friday, Oct. 9 at Ruskin High School in Kansas City, Mo.

Park Hill South junior running back Emanuel Butler broke the century mark with 101 yards rushing on 14 carries, and he scored a pair of touchdowns — a 16-yarder in the first quarter and a 1-yard plunge in the second. Dillon Thomas, a standout junior cornerback, also scored a pair of touchdowns on returns, a 25-yard pick-six to give the Panthers a 23-0 lead after the first quarter and a 75-yard kickoff return following Ruskin’s only score of the game in the second.

Jake Springer, another standout junior, also recorded a special teams touchdown — a 65-yard punt return — in addition to a 25-yard scoring pass from quarterback Zach Suchanick.

Park Hill South improved to 1-7 (1-3 Suburban Red) with the win. The Panthers play St. Joseph Central in the regular season finale and likely will have the No. 6 seed in the seven-team Class 5 District 8 field with a likely first-round matchup against Liberty North.