KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With the expected starting running back finally on the field, Park Hill put up huge offensive numbers to pull away from an unfamiliar opponent.
Dorian Clayton, a junior, missed the Trojans’ first four games this season with a broken jaw suffered in the preseason, leaving a noticeable void in the backfield. He returned and ran for 222 yards on 29 carries and scored twice in a 34-21 win against Lawrence Free State (Kan.) on Friday, Sept. 16 at Park Hill District Stadium.
Park Hill moved back above .500 at 3-2 and enters this week’s matchup at Lee’s Summit West still looking for its first two-game winning streak of the season. The Trojans moved up this season to the Suburban Conference Gold Division and Class 6 after a successful two-year run of playoff appearances in Class 5 and haven’t yet found their full footing.
Park Hill, which continued to receive votes (four) in the most recent Class 6 Missouri media poll but remained out of the top 10, enters the matchup with Lee’s Summit West (also receiving two votes) at 1-2 against the Gold Division.
“Every week there’s something to improve on,” Park Hill coach Josh Hood said after the win against Free State. “This is a great football team, but we constantly have stuff to work on and as great as the teams are that we are playing, we’ve got to get better every week.”
Free State (1-2) took a pair of early leads in Park Hill’s homecoming game before Clayton put a stamp on the game. DJ Johnson’s 65-yard kickoff return plus a personal foul on the Firebirds set up Clayton’s first touchdown run — a 5-yarder to the score at 7-7.
The Trojans then struck quickly after falling behind by a touchdown again.
Billy Maples, who threw for 315 yards, hit Ronnie Bell with a 60-yard touchdown pass with less than 2 minutes left in the half. After a stop, Park Hill created one final chance, and senior Parker Sampson — a two-time all-state selection — hammered in a career best 51-yard field goal with 4 seconds left in the second quarter to give the Trojans their first lead at 17-14.
Sampson’s kick from right of center easily cleared the crossbar for the longest field goal of his career.
“That was a good game for us because we needed a good game at which we had to come out in the second half and win, and I felt like we put ourselves in a good enough position the first half to win,” Hood said. “Parker gave us a great momentum push with that 51-yard field goal and the kids came out and they overcame over their adversity and really showed their muscle in the third and fourth quarter.”
Park Hill didn’t trail again with the offense continuing to roll.
Sampson opened the scoring in the second half with a 27-yard field goal, and senior wide receiver Quinton Harris’ 93-yard catch-and-run touchdown broke the score open at 27-14. He took a short pass from Maples and scampered down the field and away from Free State’s defense with 6:05 left in the third quarter.
Harris finished with a career game of 11 catches and 144 yards.
Clayton added a 29-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put Park Hill up 20. The defense did the rest with Zach Suppes recording 13 tackles from his linebacker spot and senior Seven Wilson adding eight.
Suppes and Wilson helped fill in on offense during Clayton’s four-game absence but resumed their roles on defense full time. Chester Graves, the Trojans’ standout senior defensive end, contributed nine tackles (four for loss) and one of two sacks.
Haden Wallace, a sophomore, had the other sack for the Trojans.
Maples’ 315 yards were a season-high, and he hasn’t thrown an interception in any of Park Hill’s three victories while throwing five total in the two losses. Bell finished with four catches for 94 yards.