Park Hill football wins district opener, prepares for daunting postseason path

After a dominating win in the opening round of the Class 5 District 8 tournament, Park Hill’s difficult road back to the playoffs begins with a matchup of ranked teams. The Trojans earned the No. 2 seed in the eight-team field despite an 9-1 record and a No. 4 ranking in the final two Missouri media polls of the regular season. They throttled Oak Park 41-7 on Friday, Oct. 23 at Park Hill District Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. to advance and now host No. 3 seed and No. 5-ranked Liberty North (8-2) in the second round on Friday, Oct. 30.

The winner would see either No. 1-ranked Staley or St. Joseph Central in the championship game of likely the toughest Class 5 district in the state.

Park Hill scored all 41 points against Oak Park in the first half and used the second half to test its depth and rest the starters ahead of the matchup with Liberty North. A first-year starter, Trojans quarterback Billy Maples threw a trio of touchdowns, including a 38-yarder to fellow sophomore DJ Johnson on the opening possession.

An interception for senior linebacker Jake Tumberger immediately returned possession to Park Hill, resulting in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Maples to Ronnie Bell and a 13-0 lead. The conversion on the opening touchdown failed.

Maples finished 9 of 11 for 164 yards, adding his third touchdown on a 47-yarder to Bell midway through the second quarter. Just less than 5 minutes later, Park Hill sophomore running back Dorian Clayton scored his second touchdown of the second quarter to cap the scoring for the Trojans.

Clayton finished with 84 yards on five carries, including touchdowns of 40 and 24 yards in the second quarter. Zach Neal, a senior running back, led Park Hill in carries with 10 for 72 yards, and he tallied the other touchdown for the Trojans — a 3-yarder late in the first quarter.

Liberty North 28, Park Hill South 16

The Eagles needed strong play late to fend off an upset bid Friday, Oct. 23 in Liberty, Mo.

Winners of two straight entering the postseason, Park Hill South (2-8) — the No. 6 seed — drove late with a chance to cut into the lead but threw an incompletion on fourth-and-goal from the 4. Liberty North then ran out the clock and escaped despite some tense moments.

Liberty North has won six straight since a loss to Staley, including an upset of then-No. 1 Fort Osage. In the second half, Liberty North scored on two of three possessions and controlled the clock. Devon Davis, a fullback, ran for 95 yards and a touchdown and added two catches for 24 yards an another score. His receiving touchdown in the third quarter capped a 6-plus-minute drive and put the Eagles up 21-10.

Park Hill South answered with its own long drive, traveling 74 yards before quarterback Zach Suchanick ran in from 19 yards out on an option play to cut the gap to 21-16 after a failed two-point conversion try. The Panthers couldn’t get a stop and went back down two scores and were unable to draw closer. In the end, Park Hill South never led, but a 27-yard touchdown catch for junior wide receiver Jake Springer from Suchanick tied the score at 7-7 early in the second quarter.

Jon Redmond, who finished with 168 yards on 23 carries, scored next on a 42-yard run, and Stephen Personelli’s field goal late in the half brought the Panthers within 14-10 at the break. Springer finished with five catches for 79 yards.

Liberty North and Park Hill both have losses to Blue Springs South this year. The Jaguars are 10-0 and ranked No. 3 in Class 6.