INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Nearly a month to the day, Park Hill South picked up another victory on the gridiron.
The Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak behind a solid second half, winning 46-13 against Truman on Friday, Oct. 5.
The last win for Park Hill South was also a Suburban Conference Red Division game, winning 18-0 against St. Joseph Central on Sept. 7.
“We need it,” Park Hill South coach Mike Sharp said of the win. “We tell the kids they are doing things the right way and they are putting in the work but when you don’t get the reward, a little guy creeps in on your shoulder saying it’s not. It is nice to get a win and hopefully it is something we can build on. We have played some really good teams but a couple bounces here and there can shift a lot.”
While the final score provided to be a blowout victory, there was a point at time when even the lead was in peril for the Panthers (2-5, 2-3 Red).
Park Hill South got the ball to open the second half but failed to do much and punted.
Truman, at the point, trailed 21-13 and had the ball with a chance to tie.
The Patriots got a 17-yard pass play from Chase Schroeder to Don Edmondson to move to midfield, but the drive fizzled out and a punt followed.
Park Hill South then proceed to score the first of four second half touchdowns.
“Coming into the half, we felt good,” Truman coach Charlie Pugh said. “We gave them 21. We were feeling good. Had things going our way and were getting stops in the second quarter, defensively. It was a big deal to get the stop (in the third quarter). We talked at halftime it was an important series and we got it, but we weren’t able to capitalize and execute.”
After Truman (0-7, 0-5 Red) was forced to punt, Park Hill South started at its own 35 and needed eight plays to march down and score. Running back Ta’Von Tusa had a pair of first-down rushing gains and when he went out with an injury, Gaige Warren picked up a 16-yard gain to move outside of the Truman red zone.
The next play, a pass, went in and out of the hands of a Truman defensive back.
Two plays later, Joe Inzenga ran for a 14-yard touchdown. After Truman went four-and-out on the next drive, Matt Suchanick hit Braeden Denney a 39-yard touchdown with 52 seconds left in the third quarter on what was the first play of the drive.
Down 34-13, the Patriots then fumbled the kickoff and Park Hill South (2-5, 2-3) recovered at the 50. The five-play drive ended early in the fourth quarter as Tusa ran for a 21-yard touchdown, finishing with 101 yards on 17 caries.
Suchanick hit Dawson Owen for a 47-yard touchdown with 9 minutes left to account for the final score.
“It felt great to get the gears going,” said Denney, who had 104 yards receiving. “We know the group we have is special. We just have been stalling. We are right there with the opposition, we just got to put our foot on their throat and we got to finish them off. We could’ve put this away in the first quarter. We put them away in the end, but we have to put them away when we can. We can’t get complacent.”
That play also happened on the first play of a drive. Going for two for the second time in a row, this attempt was intercepted by Edmondson.
This game had a little deja vu feeling to it for Sharp as his team jumped to another big lead and saw the opposition rally. Against Lee’s Summit, the Panthers scored twice in two minutes but by halftime had lost the lead.
The same thing almost happened agains the winless Patriots.
Truman got the ball first and converted on two fourth-down attempts but on the third, Park Hill got a stop at the 10-yard line.
On the third play of the drive, Gaige Warren got the carry and ran 57 yards, down to the Patriot 26-yard line.
Two plays later, Tusa scored on a 5-yard run with 2:38 to go in the first quarter.
The next scores for the Panthers came less than a minute apart.
Truman’s David Brack, a two-way starter, was thrown out for punching a Park Hill South player and the personal foul combined with a run moved the ball to the 4-yard line. Tusa ran for a 4-yard touchdown with 8:55 left in the second quarter.
Truman fumbled the kickoff and Ryan Owens recovered at the 25-yard line.
Suchanick hit Denney for a 28-yard gain, moving the ball to the 3-yard line. On the next play, he passed for a 3-yard touchdown to Brock Ivy, making it 21-0.
Truman scored twice in the final 5 minutes to make it closer.
“We jumped out to a 21-0 lead out of the gate and we let them ease back in, that has been our Achilles heel this year,” Sharp said. “We let them back in here. We had a little deja vu moment in terms of that. Hopefully, we grew and learned our lessons.
“We stressed at halftime we need to take advantage of opportunities. Outside of the first series of the second half, we were pretty good after that.”
Andrew Owens had a 42-yard score up the middle that came after a Park Hill South turnover. Truman punted, but the ball hit a Panther and the Patriots took over at the 47. Two plays later, Andrew Owens scored.
Facing a 3rd-and-16 from the 14 with 2 ½ minutes to play, Schroeder, a converted tight end, hit Edmondson for an 86-yard touchdown.
Due to injuries, Schroeder is the third string quarterback for the Patriots. Edmondson and Owens also took snaps under center in the contest for the Patriots as they mixed things up in hopes of keeping the Panthers off balanced.
By comparison, Park Hill South played three different quarterbacks in this game, but the latter two got snaps in the fourth when the outcome was already determined.
The Panthers will stay on the road on Friday, Oct. 12 with a road game against Blue Springs South.
The Jaguars are coming off a 35-0 loss to Park Hill in Week 7. Blue Springs South, 1-6, lost its first five games of the season — four of those coming against ranked teams.
This is the first meeting this decade for the two and the third meeting with a Class 6 school this year for Park Hill — who lost to Ray-Pec and Liberty.
Park Hill South is entering off its best offensive showing since a 50-37 win against St. Joseph Central on Sept. 9, 2016, when the Panthers finished 10-2.
At 2-5, the Panthers aren’t close to where they thought they would be this year — especially after entering the year ranked in the state poll.
“It is frustrating, but we got to stay together as a team,” said Park Hill defensive lineman Etinosa Reuben, who had 11 tackles in the win. “Everything happens for a reason. Monday, we go back to the lab and get better and prepare for another one.”