For the second straight week, Park Hill erased a halftime deficit, and the Trojans beat another state-ranked foe to forge a playoff return. A deluge of 25 points in the second half Friday, Nov. 6 helped Park Hill to a 27-16 win against Staley in the Class 5 District 8 title game. The fourth quarter ended up being a back-and-forth affair, but two rushing touchdowns for Park Hill senior running back Zach Neal and a critical turnover helped the Trojans repeat as a playoff qualifier.
Park Hill scored 14 unanswered points in the final 2 minutes with defensive back Liam Henry’s interception setting up Neal’s second score with 1 minute, 28 seconds left to put the Trojans up two possessions.
In the final two district games, Park Hill knocked off No. 5 Liberty North and No. 1 Staley, according to the final regular season Missouri media Class 5 poll. The Trojans, who came in at No. 4 in those rankings, have now won 11 straight since a season-opening loss to Class 6 quarterfinalist Blue Springs South (12-0).
Park Hill now faces Fort Osage at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13 in a state quarterfinal rematch. Both teams enter at 11-1 with Fort Osage the only other team to beat Staley, but the Indians’ lone loss came to Liberty North, which knocked them down to No. 3 in the media’s top 10.
Last season, Park Hill survived a wild playoff matchup with Fort Osage to reach the Class 5 semifinals. Wild comebacks have become the norm of this season for Park Hill, and that trend continued in the district final. Staley led 10-2 at halftime and 10-5 late in the third quarter before both offenses responded in a hectic finish.
Parker Sampson’s 44 yard field goal with 6:11 left in the third quarter narrowed the Falcons’ lead, and Seven Wilson’s fumble recovery on the next possession helped Park Hill take its first lead. The turnover came deep in Staley’s territory, and a 26-yard pass from Park Hill quarterback Billy Maples to senior wide receiver Kentrez Bell set up Neal’s 1-yard touchdown run.
The two-point conversion put Park Hill up 13-10, the first lead of the night for the Trojans.
Staley continued to trail for the next 12 minutes until a lengthy punt return set up the Falcons’ final score — a pass from Michael Kilpatrick to Beau Baker with less than 4 minutes to play. A missed extra point kept the lead at three points, and Park Hill needed less than 2 minutes to regain the lead.
Maples hit Bell for a 16-yard score with 2:02 play.
Staley’s next possession ended on Henry’s interception. Three straight runs from Neal covered 18 yards — 13 of them on the scoring play to seal the win. He finished with 47 yards on 12 carries, while Bell caught four passes for 53 yards.
Quentin Harris led Park Hill with five catches for 58 yards.