Park Hill football continues tough postseason route in district title game vs. Staley

CORY MACNEIL/Citizen photo Park Hill wide receiver Quinton Harris, right, attempts to evade a tackle from a Liberty North Defender on Friday, Oct. 30 at Park Hill District Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Park Hill overcame a costly first-half fumble and made a dramatic late stop to preserve a Class 4 District 8 semifinal victory.

Liberty North — the No. 3 seed — ran four plays from inside the 5 in the final minute-plus Friday, Oct. 30 at Park Hill District Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The Trojans turned them back on all four with the Eagles eschewing a potential game-tying field goal to go for the win.

Park Hill held for a 10-7 win, advancing to play top-seeded Staley (9-1) on Friday, Nov. 6 at North Kansas City District Activities Complex in Kansas City, Mo.

Now winners of 10 straight, Park Hill (10-1) seeks a second straight district title and playoff appearance after senior running back Zach Neal’s 1-yard touchdown gave the Trojans their first lead of the second half with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the third quarter. The short plunge capped a 13-play, 89-yard drive that turned out to be the game winner.

Liberty North (8-3) received its final chance after a punt attempt went awry.

Park Hill failed to handle a snap midway through the fourth quarter, and the Eagles took over at their own 47 with 5:52 to go. A third-down conversion put them in Trojans’ territory for the fourth time in the game, and a fourth-and-4 pass helped keep the drive alive before it moved inside the 5.

With the four late stops, Park Hill preserved what was essentially a shutout.

Parker Sampson gave the Trojans a 3-0 lead on a 35-yard field goal with 8:57 left in the first half. However, the final 1:06 provided an unexpected flurry after Park Hill fumbled the ball on a jet sweep handoff attempt. Liberty North’s Michael Neisler collected the loose ball and rumbled 15 yards for a score.

After a squib kick, Park Hill sophomore quarterback Billy Maples led the Trojans inside the Liberty North 5 in the final seconds, but Sampson’s 22-yard attempt from a tough angle sailed wide, sending the Eagles into the break with a 7-3 lead.

Maples ended up 15-for-17 for 164 yards despite steady rain throughout the matchup of state-ranked foes with sophomore DJ Johnson collecting a team-high five catches for 61 yards. Neal led the Trojans with 91 yards on 23 carries.

Seven Wilson, a junior linebacker, and junior defensive end Chester Graves led the defensive effort. Wilson finished with a team-high 17 total tackles, while Graves made 13 along with a pair of sacks.