RIVERSIDE, Mo. — Nylo Clarke reentered the game right before a seemingly harmless throw-in.
When Park Hill made a mess of the possession in its own end, Park Hill South’s speedy senior forward pounced on an opportunity — one very similar to a chance he just missed on minutes earlier. Daniel Gunderson knocked a loose ball over to Clarke, who set up and roofed a left-footed shot from 18 yards out for the first of his two goals in the Panthers’ 3-0 win Thursday, Sept. 8 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex.
Clarke’s goal in the 23rd minute came about 5 minutes after he collected a ball from 20 yards out and fired a left-footed shot that Park Hill goalkeeper Gabe Smith appeared to get the slightest touch on, sending the ball rattling off the crossbar.
“During warmups, I was testing my shot out a little bit, and I was kind of feeling it. I said, ‘Why not? Let it fly,” Clarke said. “When you have a shot like that, you get into a rhythm for the rest of the game. It set my momentum, and I got two goals out of it.”
Clarke scored the winner in the second of two matchups between the Park Hill rivals last October — a 1-0 Park Hill South victory just ahead of the postseason.
With the teams split into different conferences for the next two seasons, Thursday marked the only scheduled meeting between the two, and Clarke didn’t settle for just one goal. Seven minutes after the opener, Panthers forward Tyler Pisoni leaked a cross through from the right that Clarke found on the left, sending a right-footed shot across goal that Smith dove low to stop.
Smith slowed the ball but could only watch as it trickled into his net, giving Park Hill South a 2-0 lead.
Park Hill played Smith (three saves) in the first half and Stefan Derra (three saves) in the second half, still rotating goalkeepers behind an experienced and talented backline that includes sophomore Aaron Simpson and senior Jackson Foutch. However, the mistake at the back on Clarke’s first goal upped the difficulty level for a team that succeeds by limiting goals and looking to strike back on counters and set pieces.
In the loss, Park Hill played without senior midfielder Paulo Murguia and with sophomore midfielder Damon Borrayo limited due to injuries.
“We had a very, very good first 20 minutes where we were disciplined in our shape and played the way we wanted,” Park Hill coach Josh Marchbank said. “Unfortunately, we’re a bit banged up right now. The guys we were missing are key components to what we need to do to be a disciplined team defensively.
“It was not what we wanted.”
Park Hill South continued to try and find its offensive footing early in the season with encouraging results.
Panthers midfielders Dan Geary and Ryan DiBernardo have led the attack much of the year, but the two didn’t feature in any of the three goals. In addition to Clarke’s goal and Pisoni’s assist, Gunderson added a goal in the second half after Derra stoned DiBernado on a point-blank chance.
The ball bounced away and play continued with Gunderson collecting and dribbling into the box before firing in with his left foot in a solo effort.
“Going into it, we know we are strong defensively so what we’ve been trying to work on is our finishing piece,” Park Hill South coach Chris Farmer said. “We even missed some opportunities tonight, but we were able to finish when we could and come out on top.
“We needed those guys to get over that hump. Sometimes you get into a slump, and I think tonight we sort of broke the dam, so to speak.”
Clarke remained the most dangerous player on the field for much of the game.
After scoring his second, he nearly set up Pisoni — a senior returning all-state forward — for a needed goal. Clarke navigated the right end line before sending in a cross, which Pisoni met with a forceful diving header that clattered into Smith’s crossbar for the second time in the half.
Clarke took a header of his own deep into the second half, looking for a hat trick to continue his run of success against Park Hill. He entered the game with just one goal on the season.
“I really don’t know if it’s Park Hill or just luck. I have no clue,” he said. “We made our own luck.”
Park Hill South senior goalkeeper Noah Brizendine made just one save to record the cleansheet and wasn’t tested at all outside of a deep shot taken in the plodding early portion of the first half.
Park Hill South 5, St. Joseph Central 0
The Panthers improved to 6-1-1 on the season Monday, Sept. 12 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex in Riverside, Mo., recording a fourth consecutive shutout.
At 2-0 in Suburban Conference Red Division play entering a scheduled Wednesday, Sept. 14 matchup with Liberty North, Park Hill South struck early and often against the Indians, while not allowing them a shot on goal. DiBernardo tallied the opener in the 15th minute, and the Panthers went up 4-0 at halftime on goals from Clarke and Turner Hall sandwiched around DiBernardo’s second.
Clarked added his second early in the second half. Pisoni, Geary, Hall and Gunderson recorded one assist apiece.
Park Hill South 2, Shawnee Mission Northwest 0
Hall scored both goals to help the Panthers run their win streak to three games in a shutout Saturday, Sept. 10 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex in Riverside, Mo.
The opener came on an assist from Pisoni in the 30th minute, and Hall grabbed his brace in the 64th off a pass from Geary. Brizendine made just one save for the cleansheet — his fifth in a span of five games.
Park Hill South 5, Liberty 0
The Panthers scored all five goals in a span of 30 minutes spanning either side of halftime Wednesday, Sept. 7 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex in Riverside, Mo.
Scoreless deep into the first half, DiBernardo scored the opener in the 30th minute on an assist from Jacob Wicks — a connection between two returning all-state performers. Geary then buried a penalty kick in the final minute of the first half to make it 2-0 at halftime.
Pisoni, Geary and Hall capped the scoring. Geary and Noah Anderson had assists, while Wicks connected with Geary on the fourth goal. Brizendine made five saves to keep the cleansheet.
Lee’s Summit North 5, Park Hill 1
The Trojans went into halftime down one goal but remained winless in Suburban Conference Gold Division play.
Overall, Park Hill’s losing streak hit six, and Lee’s Summit North beat the Trojans for the third time this season with the win Monday, Sept. 12 in Lee’s Summit, Mo. Kyle Timmerman scored the Trojans’ lone goal in the first half, and they dropped to 3-7 overall and 0-4 in league play.
Staley 1, Park Hill 0
The Trojans were shut out for a second consecutive game, sending them into the rivalry matchup with Park Hill South on a three-game losing skid. Staley scored the lone goal in the first half.