Park Hill’s season came to a fitting, if not devastating conclusion.
In a showcase first round matchup, the Trojans took a late lead against Rockhurst at Dasta Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., only to have the hosts tie the score. Park Hill senior kicker Parker Sampson just missed a game-winning field goal try at the end of regulation, and the Hawklets went on to win 21-14 in overtime to advance to the semifinals of the Class 6 District 4 bracket.
Park Hill finished its season at 6-4, having held a lead in the fourth quarter of each defeat this season. Coming off back-to-back playoff appearances in Class 5, the Trojans adapted well to the largest tier of the Suburban Conference this season but came up agonizingly short of big wins with a beefed up schedule.
“If there is anything we will work on, we will improve our depth and finish football games,” Park Hill coach Josh Hood said.
Following the missed field goal, Rockhurst (8-2) took possession first and needed just one play to take the lead for the first time since late in the first quarter.
Brady McCanles, a junior running back, took a sweep left and plowed into the end zone for his third touchdown of the night. Park Hill took its possession and advanced to the 16, but running back Dorian Clayton slipped on the turf on fourth-and-1 to end the game and the Trojans’ season.
Park Hill seemed headed for a victory when quarterback Billy Maples plunged into the end zone from 1 yard out with 3 minutes, 47 seconds left in regulation. Devin Haney, a junior defensive back, set up the touchdown drive with his second interception and the Trojans’ third forced turnover.
Seven Wilson, Park Hill’s senior leading tackler at linebacker, also forced a fumble.
Down 14-7, Rockhurst marched back and scored on McCanles second touchdown run to tie the score. Park Hill’s final chance to win in regulation nearly ended with an interception, but a pass interference call on Rockhurst negated the play.
Sampson, an all-state performer each of the past two seasons, lined up for a 43-yard field goal in the closing seconds but sent the booming kick just wide of the right upright. He finished his career 30-for-40 on field goals with a career long of 51 and accounted for 70 or more points in each of the past three seasons while handling kicking duties, 128-for-137 on extra points.
“I will live and die with Parker Sampson,” Hood told The Kansas City Star. “He’s the best kicker I’ve ever known. We’ve lived a hell of a lot more than we’ve gone down with him.”
Park Hill and Rockhurst combined for just two touchdowns in the first 3 ½ quarters but combined for 21 points in the final four drives. The Hawklets took the lead late in the first quarter on McCanles first touchdown run before Maples leveled the score with a 4-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver DJ Johnson midway through the second quarter.
Overall, Park Hill turned the three turnovers into 14 points and a missed 38-yard field goal try from Sampson in the first half.
Park Hill will lose a good core of accomplished seniors, especially on the defensive side with Division I-bound defensive end Chester Graves and linebackers Seven Wilson, TJ Hullaby and Zach Suppes. Landen Brown (lineman) and Quinton Harris (wide receiver) were also top senior performers on the offensive line.