KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill’s offense scored so quickly during the first two weeks of the season, the defense ended up left to cover in inordinate amount of time on the field.
Facing a rivalry game ahead of a top-ranked showdown, the Trojans gave opposing coaches even more to think about. They didn’t give up a point in a 42-0 win over Park Hill South on Friday, Sept. 1, allowing the Panthers just 75 yards of offense and forcing one turnover.
The game ended up called with 9 minutes, 44 seconds left in the fourth quarter after a fight in the stands raised safety concerns for fans, players and coaches. By that time, Park Hill sufficiently showed its dominance and won a fourth straight in the rivalry series with a shutout.
“People talk a lot about the offense and for good reason, but we really think our defense has taken a huge step forward over the summer,” Hood said. “We really feel like that’s a defense that can stop the run and is also good against the pass.”
Park Hill (3-0) gave up 21 points late in a season-opening win against Lee’s Summit North and then saw Lee’s Summit put up five touchdowns in a 66-35 loss that featured several record-setting offensive performances.
Trojans senior quarterback Billy Maples and senior wide receivers DJ Johnson and Ronnie Bell kept up their hot starts, combining for three touchdowns through the air in the first half. Maples ended up with 166 yards passing and four more touchdowns after throwing for nine in the win over Lee’s Summit — tying a state record for most in one game.
Johnson had TD catches of 20 and 11 yards — both on nifty catch-and-runs — in the first quarter, giving him six on the season after grabbing four last week.
Bell’s 23-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was his first of two receiving scores. He finished with team-highs of five catches for 95 yards and now has nine touchdown receptions in three games.
Despite the flashy numbers, Park Hill took care of business in a slowed-down pace against Park Hill South.
“Part of it is with those kids is (the records are) the last thing that they talk about,” Park Hood said. “Fortunately, a lot of those records are coming to a group of kids who are just outstanding individuals, and they’re all about their teammates and not about themselves so there was no fear of anyone getting big-headed over the situation that occurred over the last two weeks.”
The two teams now enter Week 4 on entirely different trajectories.
Park Hill hosts No. 3 Blue Springs (2-1) in the state’s most anticipated matchup with the winner likely taking control of not only the Class 6 state polls but the Suburban Conference Gold Division race. The Trojans moved up from No. 3 to No. 2 in the most recent media poll, while Blue Springs dropped from No. 1 to No. 3 — just one point behind Park Hill — after losing to Fayetteville (Ark.) last week.
Park Hill South (1-2) dropped a second straight and goes into Suburban Conference Red Division play with questions to answer.
The Panthers entered the season ranked No. 10 in Class 5 and coming off of a state quarterfinal appearance. However, the rebuilt offense struggled in a Week 2 upset loss at Grandview when the Bulldogs returned three interceptions in the first half for touchdowns.
Losing 24-23 to Park Hill a year ago after failing on a late two-point try while going for the lead, Park Hill South managed just 75 yards of offense and five first downs in this year’s shutout loss. Ta’Von Tusa, a junior running back transfer from Bishop Miege (Kan.), failed to score for the first time this season, managing just 30 yards on 16 attempts.
In addition, Park Hill South quarterbacks Billy Eggers and Taylor Tobin combined for just one completion on five attempts each, and both left the game with injuries. They threw four interceptions in the loss at Grandview, and Panthers coach Mike Sharp doesn’t know what to expect with a trip to St. Joseph Central looming to start Red Division play on Friday.
“Right now we’ve got some injuries to, unfortunately, both of our quarterbacks so we’re going to have to reevaluate and see exactly how injured we are as we move forward,” said Sharp, who led Park Hill South to a 5-0 record to win the conference last year during an eight-game winning streak that propelled the Panthers into the playoffs. “If not we’re going to have to get the next guy ready.”
Park Hill answered one of its biggest questions with the defensive showing.
DaShaun Powell, a junior defensive back, grabbed an interception for a second straight week, although it didn’t lead to a touchdown in the first quarter, while junior linebacker Haden Wallace (11 tackles, eight for loss) and sophomore Johnny Wilson (10 tackles, five for loss) led the tacklers for the Trojans, who forced eight punts. Field position consistently went in their favor, including a few lengthy punt returns.
Bell, who grabbed a 17-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the third quarter, scored a third touchdown on a 50-yard punt return after Park Hill South punted following its first possession. The passing game again dominated for Park Hill, although junior wide receiver Payton Stanfield went 78 yards on a jet sweep to cap the scoring in the third quarter before the premature ending to the game.
Park Hill doesn’t mind taking time to develop the running game with senior Dorian Clayton and junior Corey Bradford battling for time at running back.
“(Offensive) line is giving (Maples) plenty of time and whether we have Corey or Dorian in the back their always putting up numbers,” Bell said. “Me and Billy our job is easy; we just have to find each other.”