KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Devin Haney doesn’t often see passes thrown his way anymore, but Park Hill’s standout senior took advantage of one rare opportunity in a very big spot.
A four-year starter, Haney grabbed his ninth career interception — and first of this season — late in the fourth quarter to halt Blue Springs’ final drive, preserving a 28-25 win for the Trojans on Friday, Sept. 8 at Park Hill District Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The turnover stopped what could have been a tying or winning drive in the anticipated showdown between two of Class 6’s best teams.
“I feel like tonight we’re No. 1 but we’re not done,” Haney said. “We still have a whole year to play, and there’s no trophy after this game so we’ve still got to chase that.”
Coupled with a loss for No. 1 Kirkwood, Park Hill’s victory moved the Trojans from No. 2 to No. 1 in the most recent Class 6 Missouri media poll. Blue Springs entered the matchup at No. 3, coming off of a loss to Fayetteville, one of the top big school teams in Arkansas the week before.
A wild sequence shaped the course of the Suburban Conference Gold Division matchup with tons of implications.
Park Hill (4-0, 2-0 Gold Division) turned the ball over on downs with 1 minute, 32 seconds to go after a failed attempt on fourth down that could’ve killed the clock. Blue Springs responded with a march to the Trojans’ 26, setting up the decisive pass play.
Chase Donohoe lofted a pass toward Tre Wheaton on the left sideline with Haney going up to snatch the ball near the end zone. Known as Park Hill’s shutdown corner, not many quarterbacks test Haney at this point, but he remained ready.
“We actually baited them for a little bit,” said Haney, committed to play at Northern Illinois. “On that play, I went to press and baited the quarterback to throw the ball and the ball was up in the air, and I just went up and got it.”
Park Hill led 28-17 late in the third quarter after senior quarterback Billy Maples threw his third touchdown pass — this one 15 yards to senior Ronnie Bell on a diving catch across the end zone.
Blue Springs used a trick play to tighten the score with a fullback touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter and the resulting two-point conversion narrowed the Wildcats’ deficit to 28-25. Park Hill, which entered with more than 1,000 yards passing in the first three games, didn’t score in the final 13-plus minutes but still found a way to hold on.
Park Hill senior linebackers Brighton Ramirez (18) and Jarrett Ross (14) along with junior linebacker Haden Wallace (12), junior defensive back Kolby Heinerikson (11) and sophomore defensive lineman Johnny Wilson (10) all finished with double-digit tackles. Ramirez also had two of the Trojans’ three sacks in a staunch defensive effort.
“We were excited because the main thing tonight is that we got to play four quarters,” Hood said. “When we got that opportunity I felt like our kids rose to the occasion and we have to fix a few problems that we had but by in large the execution was there tonight and I was proud of our kids.”
Maples ended up limited to 148 yards on 13-for-23 accuracy, and he also added his first rushing touchdown of the season — a 1-yard sneak to open the scoring in the first quarter.
Park Hill never trailed after Maples threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Joe Webb (two catches, 20 yards) early in the second quarter. A 41-yard touchdown pass from Maples to freshman Jaylin Noel made it 21-10 with 1:42 left in the first half, but Blue Springs responded with a quick score to go into halftime down 21-17.
Bell finished with team-highs of 73 yards and seven catches and has at least one touchdown in each game this season. Park Hill played without senior wide receiver DJ Johnson, an injury that hurt the passing game, but senior running back Dorian Clayton posted season-highs of 30 carries for 146 yards.
Park Hill now sits atop the state rankings and the Class 6 District 4 and Gold Division standings. The Trojans have yet to play away from home, the lone “road game” against Park Hill South on the schools’ shared field in Week 3.
The next task will be a trip to Lawrence, Kan. to play Lawrence Free State, off to a 2-0 start with two blowout wins.
“It’s been wonderful (playing at home), and we’re going to do everything we can to treat this like another home football game, just on a different field,” Hood said. “Our student section is the best student section that I’ve ever been a part of from a home perspective.”