KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the second straight week, Park Hill didn’t make victory look easy.
Senior quarterback Billy Maples and senior wide receiver Ronnie Bell turned in record-setting performances, eventually helping Park Hill pull away for a 45-23 victory in a nonconference game against Liberty North on Friday, Oct. 6 at Park Hill District Stadium. The Trojans have won two straight since a two-game losing streak against top tier competition dropped them from No. 1 to No. 6 in the Missouri media Class 6 rankings.
Park Hill (6-2) remained at No. 6 following the win, entering a regular season finale at Blue Springs South and looking to regain the early season swagger from undefeated start. The Trojans need a win to wrap up a share of the Suburban Conference Gold Division crown but maybe more importantly momentum for the postseason.
“I think we need to make sure that our mindset every week is we are never at the top, and we need to climb back up every week,” Park Hill coach Josh Hood said. “These kids will come out, and they’ll fight and put together a good week of preparation this week, and we’ll see what we have next week.”
Liberty North (3-5) posed some early problems before Maples (411 yards passing) and Bell (career-highs of 13 catches and 259 yards) fueled the blowout.
Park Hill trailed 7-3 in the first quarter when Maples connected with Bell on an 82-yard catch-and-run touchdown to put the Trojans up for good. The duo hooked for another score before halftime, while Maples threw his third touchdown to junior Davis Suppes — a 12-yarder for his only reception.
The early response fueled a 31-13 halftime lead, and Maples finished 23 for 26 with four touchdowns with his most yards in a game since his eight-touchdown performance earlier in the season against Lee’s Summit. Joe Webb, a junior, also made eight catches for 92 yards, while freshman Jaylin Noel had four catches for 60 yards.
“Right now, we’ve just turned it up,” said Park Hill running back Dorian Clayton, who ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries after rushing for 100-plus in the four previous games. “We’re all getting better every day at practice, and we’re just taking it very seriously. We keep our faith strong, and we have faith for one another so we just come out here and play.”
Liberty North managed more than 300 yards of offense but settled for three field goals.
Park Hill recovered a pair of fumbles — one each for senior Randen Plattner and junior Haden Wallace — and recorded five sacks. Brighton Ramirez, a senior linebacker, led the Trojans with 18 tackles to go with one sack.
Wallace (12) and junior Cole Gonier (11) also finished with double-digit tackles for Park Hill.
After being ranked No. 1 early in the season, Park Hill suffered losses to Lawrence Free State (No. 1 in Kansas 6A) and Lee’s Summit West (7-1). The Trojans have since rallied and received a boost with the return of senior DJ Johnson, who recorded eight tackles at defensive back against Liberty North in his first game in a month.
Park Hill continued to hold the No. 2 spot in the Class 6 District 4 standings behind Lee’s Summit West.
Last year, Park Hill lost in the opening round of district play in the first season for the Trojans since moving up from Class 5. They have big goals for finishing this season after going to the Class 5 playoffs in 2014 and 2015.
“I think this group of guys on the field has been an outstanding group for the last four years,” Hood said. “Some of the things they did this week in preparation and then coming together as a unit, I think that really showed tonight, and I think that’s going to pay dividends in the future.”