Park Hill struggles in loss to Liberty North

LIBERTY — Three weeks ago, Park Hill picked up its first win against Lee’s Summit West on the gridiron.

This past week, the Trojans lost for the first time to Liberty North in a showdown of Class 6-ranked teams.

The Eagles, ranked No. 7 at the time, dominated most facets of the game and won 24-3 against then No. 6-ranked Park Hill on Friday, Sept. 13 at Zaxby’s Field.

That marked the first loss for the Trojans against Liberty North dating back to 2014. Park Hill won the previous five meetings before Friday’s loss.

“We didn’t execute in any phases of the game,” Park Hill coach Josh Hood said. “It is one of the things you can’t do that in this schedule. We had a wonderful  week of practice and we didn’t do that on Friday night. You can’t do that, you can’t do that, not one week. We were bad. Make no mistake that is on us coaching wise and the execution of the players and the coaches. I love these guys. We will continue to fight. We will come back next week and get after it again.”

Park Hill struggled to get much going offensively and the defense gave up a couple big plays, which was more than enough for the Eagles to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2011.

The first two drives for the Trojans ended in three-and-outs, giving the ball to Liberty North at the Trojans’ 46-yard line and 23-yard line.

The latter set up a short scoring drive for the Eagles, though a roughing the passer turned what could’ve been a field goal attempt into a 1st-and-goal from the 10.

On the next play, Keshawn Turner took the handoff and ran up the middle for a touchdown.

ADAM BURNS/Liberty Courier-Tribune  Park Hill’s Darion Neal carries the ball against Liberty North in a game on Friday, Sept. 13 at Zaxby’s Field in Liberty.

ADAM BURNS/Liberty Courier-Tribune

Park Hill’s Darion Neal carries the ball against Liberty North in a game on Friday, Sept. 13 at Zaxby’s Field in Liberty.

“We gotta find a better way to start the game,” Hood said. “We did that last week, we gave up a quick three (points) and we did it here. It wasn’t the start we were looking for.”

Park Hill (2-1) drove down to the Liberty North 19-yard line on the next drive, but a holding call and delay of game ultimately led to a punt.

The next promising Park Hill drive went down to the 19-yard line again but a turnover on fourth down gave the Eagles the ball back.

That quickly turned into points for the Eagles. A 25-yard pass from Jake VanDyne to Warren Bennett III moved the ball near midfield and facing a 3rd-and-8 from the 34, VanDyne hit Davis Rockers for a 34-yard touchdown on a wheel route down the Trojans’ sideline.

Liberty North, with wins against state-ranked foes in two of the first three, put an exclamation point on the first half dominance with a touchdown on its next drive.

Luke Matthews hauled in a 85-yard touchdown pass from VanDyne, which was aided by a Park Hill defender falling down and leaving Matthews wide open at midfield. He outran the defense to push the lead to 21-0.

“We gave up big plays and we pride ourselves in not giving up big plays and winning the turnover battle and we didn’t do any of that tonight,” Hood said. 

The only points for Park Hill came on the final possession of the first half.

Getting the ball with 2 minutes, 31 seconds to play, the Trojans marched from the 25-yard line to the Eagles’ 14-yard line. Darion Neal had five straight carries, gaining two first downs and moving to midfield to start the drive. Quarterback Anthony Hall hit PJ Caldwell for a 16-yard gain to the Liberty North 32 and two plays later Hall hit Jaylin Noel — who picked up an offer from Kansas State last week — for a 14-yard gain to the Eagles’ 19 with 12 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Trojans ran one more pass play, a 5-yard gainer to Caldwell, before offensive coordinator Josh Buford called a timeout with 3.4 seconds left.

Grant Pella trotted out and booted a 31-yard field goal as time expired to make it 21-3.

Pella made a big play to open the second half as his kickoff angled to the right pylon and bounced in front of a Liberty North return man. A quick-thinking Mikey Miles fell on the ball for the Trojans and Park Hill got the ball at the 20-yard line with a chance to swing momentum.

Instead, the Trojans came up empty in a microcosm of how things went in Week 3.

On 4th-and-1 at the 18-yard line, Eric Carey got enough of a push to gain a first down to keep the drive by the nose of the football. Two plays later, Hall was intercepted in the end zone by Baxley, who ran it back 20 yards.

“We got to find some energy guys, we got to find some on offense and the bottom line we will look for them in practice this week,” Hood said. “We are looking for energy; who will light us and who can light a fire under some of these guys. We can’t do it from the sidelines; it has to happen on the field. I will take this, we thought we were prepared but we didn’t put ourselves in a position to win. When we find ourselves in a position to put the foot down we got to find a way to execute and finish the game.”

The Trojans defense held but the offense gave the ball back on a combination sack/strip fumble that Baxley recovered at the 40-yard line.

The 21-3 score remained throughout the third quarter but Liberty North booted a field goal with 6 minutes left to account for the final score.

Up next

The Trojans, who dropped to No. 9 in the Class 6 poll, will host Lee’s Summit North on Friday, Sept. 20 at Preston Field.

The Broncos are coming off a win against Blue Springs and jumped from unranked to the No. 6 team in the Class 6 poll. Lee’s Summit North will mark the third top-10 showdown for the Trojans this year, following the season opener against Lee’s Summit West and last week’s Liberty North game.

Park Hill was winless last year when the two played but won 24-14 in Lee’s Summit, knocking off the then-ranked and unbeaten Broncos.

Since moving to the Gold Division, the Trojans are 3-0 against the Broncos.