KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill’s players and coaches were in a familiar situation late in the fourth quarter Friday, Sept. 22.
After falling behind early against Lee’s Summit West, the Trojans were battling back and even took a brief lead in a matchup of Class 6-ranked Suburban Conference Gold Division foes. The Titans answered right back with a big play to set up the winning touchdown in a 31-27 shootout at Park Hill District Stadium.
Park Hill (4-2) dropped its second straight after also losing by one possession the week before in a featured matchup with Lawrence Free State (Kan.). The Trojans have since tumbled from No. 1 in the Missouri media rankings to No. 6.
Lee’s Summit West (5-1) led by 15 early in the second quarter before Park Hill started its comeback effort.
“It was another test of adversity for us and we battled back,” Park Hill coach Josh Hood said. “We’ve got to learn to finish ball games, and we’ve done a good job going through the first six weeks of playing good football. But what we can’t do is have a lack of execution.”
Lee’s Summit West went more than 24 minutes without a point, but Park Hill’s offense couldn’t take enough advantage.
Billy Maples — Park Hill’s record-setting senior quarterback — finished 14-for-22 with 221 yards with senior wide receiver Ronnie Bell held to season-lows of two catches for 28 yards. With the normal weapons limited, senior running back Dorian Clayton ran 39 times for 176 yards and two short touchdowns, helping the Trojans cut their deficit to 24-20 at halftime.
The score held until late in the fourth quarter when junior linebacker Haden Wallace snagged an interception to set up Park Hill at Lee’s Summit West’s 27.
With more than 4 minutes remaining, Maples threw his second TD pass of the game on a 27-yard strike to junior Payton Stanfield to give the Trojans’ their first lead. Lee’s Summit West answered right back with a 59-yard completion to set up the winning score with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining.
Prior to the final touchdown, Lee’s Summit West hadn’t scored since the 4:40 mark of the second quarter.
“We can’t give up easy scores, and we’ve got to execute offensively to not put ourselves in a position to rely on being on one side of the ball or the other,” Hood said. “We need to do a better job executing at the end of the game, and it has shown the last couple of weeks. I felt like we were still able to stay in the game and it was just one play here and there that knocked us backward.”
Park Hill drove into Lee’s Summit West territory on the final drive, but an intentional grounding penalty and a fumble ended the threat.
The hot start from Lee’s Summit West might have been the biggest difference. With 10:34 left in the first half, Sammy Cooper scored on a 68-yard touchdown strike from Cade Clemons on a reverse pass to put the Titans ahead 21-6.
Park Hill answered with its biggest play — an 85-yard touchdown strike from Maples to senior Jordan Murphy, who outraced a final defender to the end zone to make it 21-12. A field goal with 4:40 left in the half put Lee’s Summit West ahead 12, but Clayton’s second touchdown run plus a two-point conversion made it 24-20 at halftime.
After halftime, the defense came up with the plays needed to keep the score close.
Park Hill senior linebacker Brighton Ramirez and junior defensive back Kolby Heinerikson came up with 10 tackles apiece, while Jhalen Turner recorded the lone sack. The Trojans have now allowed 21 or more points in five games this season while navigating the hardest part of the schedule.
Up next, Park Hill travels to Raymore-Peculiar (2-4) while looking to keep pace in the Gold Division race. The Trojans remain tied with Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit West for the lead in the division.
Park Hill also dropped behind Lee’s Summit West to second in the eight-team Class 6 District 4 standings with the loss.
“Every week is a test in this conference, but we’re excited about this last third (of the regular season),” Hood said. “We’re really excited about the challenges that present themselves but then at the same time this will be the time we really want to ramp it up and start playing more playoff football these last three weeks.”