KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill didn’t have the start envisioned, but the Trojans put the finishing touches on a big win for the program.
Three second half touchdowns propelled Park Hill to a 21-10 victory over Lee’s Summit in a Class 6 District 4 semifinal played Friday, Oct. 27 at Park Hill District Stadium. The Trojans have now won five straight and earned an important rematch with a playoff spot on the line.
No. 4 seed Rockhurst’s minor upset of Lee’s Summit West coupled with Park Hill’s win created the scenario.
Seeded second, Park Hill will now host the Class 6 District 4 championship game at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3 at Park Hill District Stadium. The matchup with Rockhurst will be a rematch of a first round game last year the Hawklets won in overtime to end the Trojans’ first season back in Missouri’s largest classification.
“Revenge is typically not something I ever speak about with the kids,” Park Hill coach Josh Hood said. “It is an emotion that is difficult to sustain. This game will be another big challenge deep into the playoffs. I believe last year we had prepared all season to compete at the Class 6 level and with the top competition in the state.
“I believe this year, however, our kids have prepared to win at the Class 6 level and beat the top competition in the state.”
Park Hill’s rematch with Lee’s Summit didn’t look a bit like the first meeting between the two Suburban Conference Gold Division rivals when senior quarterback Billy Maples threw a school record nine touchdowns in a 66-35 win.
In fact, Lee’s Summit (5-6) — entering off a minor upset of third-seeded Joplin — led 3-0 at halftime after stymieing the Trojans for the first 24 minutes. A fumble early in the third quarter shifted the momentum, and Park Hill scored 21 unanswered.
After junior Dashaun Powell recovered the fumble, Park Hill senior running back Dorian Clayton ripped off a 40-yard run, and Maples completed the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to freshman Jaylin Noel — his only reception. Maples ended up just 4 of 11 for 39 yards with season-lows in cold and windy conditions.
“We just had to remind the kids we were not in survival mode. When the temperatures drop like that, the kids have a tendency to revert to survival mode.” Hood said. “Our kids made the decision not to pay attention to the weather in the second half, and I think it renewed our energy. Our offensive staff had the opportunity to whittle down the call sheet offensively and get the ball in the hands of some play-makers while our defensive staff was able to locate a few things we could do better against the formations Lee’s Summit uses.”
Clayton ended up the main beneficiary; running for a career-high 332 yards on 41 carries. He did not play in the first matchup with Lee’s Summit.
Park Hill relied heavily on the running game but didn’t have Clayton do all the work. Ronnie Bell — a senior receiver who made one catch for 15 yards — scored twice on run plays in the second half.
On the first, Bell leaped over Lee’s Summit defenders to do a front flip into the end zone on a touchdown run, and he added a 49-yarder on a jet sweep to make it 21-3 early in the fourth quarter. He finished with 88 yards on five carries.
In between the touchdowns, Park Hill drove to the Lee’s Summit 1 but couldn’t score. A quick defensive stand gave the Trojans the ball back near midfield.
Park Hill forced three turnovers and committed just one.
A fumble late in the first half ended a drive looking to answer Lee’s Summit’s initial field goal. The Trojans’ defense wouldn’t allow any more points until the fourth quarter before forcing a pair of turnovers on downs to close out the game.
Cole Gonier — a junior linebacker — made 16 total tackles to lead Park Hill’s staunch defensive effort. Lee’s Summit ran the ball more than in the prior matchup due to quarterback injuries, but junior Kolby Heinerikson managed an interception while senior linebacker Brighton Ramirez and junior linebacker Haden Wallace had a sack each.
Ramirez (14), Wallace (12), junior defensive lineman Ethan Smith (11) and senior safety Jarrett Ross (10) also finished with double-figure tackles for Park Hill.
“Brighton and Haden have been consistently disrupting offenses as well as any duo this school has seen,” Hood said. “They are fast, physical and instinctive and Friday night was no different. Our defensive line was impressive as well. Ethan Smith squeezed the field and made plays in the backfield all night.”
With an experienced core back from last year’s early postseason disappointment, Park Hill’s players hope to earn the third playoff trip in four years and first since moving back to Class 6. The Trojans (9-2) ended the regular season ranked No. 5 while Rockhurst (8-3).