As it turned out, Truman needed the 34-yard touchdown run by senior Jordan Salima with 10:34 left in the game to secure a 27-21 victory over Park Hill South Friday night at William Chrisman High School.
The win lifted Truman to 5-1.
“I thought the game was over, but I knew we couldn’t ease up and that’s what we did,” said Salima, who had 33 rushes for 186 yards in the game. “We have to work on that in practice and execute next week.”
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Salima’s fourth touchdown of the game gave the Patriots a 27-0, but that’s when the Park Hill South came alive.
The Panthers showed their fight by scoring a touchdown 2 minutes after Salima’s fourth score on a 1-yard run by junior quarterback Zach Suchanick. On the next play from scrimmage, Park Hill South junior defensive back Dillon Thomas picked up a fumble and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.
The Panthers then recovered an onside kick. They drove for another touchdown, scoring on a 1-yard run by Suchanick with 4:58 left in the game. That cut Truman’s lead to 27-21.
After giving their fans a scare, the Patriots returned the kickoff to Park Hill South’s 28. Behind Salima, Truman put the game away, running out the final 4:40.
“The last drive was probably the most important drive of the game,” said Truman senior quarter back Dean Clemons. “We hung onto the ball. I fumbled a couple of times. Another running back fumbled. Ball security was a big issue in the last drive, and getting the first downs was basically what we needed.”
Through three quarters, it never looked like there was going to be late-game drama.
“Moral victories aren’t anything to get you wins, but it was encouraging that our young kids battled back right there,” Park Hill South coach Mike Sharp said. “We had an opportunity to lay our heads down, but our kids fought through it. That is a positive thing for us to build on. We have to build up from there.”
Truman took control on its second drive of the game. It started at its 29. The Patriots played old-fashion, smash-mouth football and marched the ball downfield on the legs of Salima, Clemons and running back Juan Flores.
Salima carried the bulk of the load on the 12-play, 71-yard drive. He rushed six times for 50 yards, including the final 2 yards that gave Truman a 7-0 lead after Will Jenkins extra point.
“I think we set the tone pretty good,” Salima said. “Coach came up with a game plan, and we executed it. We could have run a little harder, but overall, we got the job done.”
That first scoring drive 5 minute and 40 seconds.
Park Hill South appeared poised to match Truman’s drive through the air. Consecutive completions by Suchanick put the Panthers at Truman’s 39. After an incompletion, Suchanick tossed a 19-yard pass to Emanuel Butler.
But a 2-yard loss on first down, followed by three straight incomplete passes put an end to the drive.
Truman took over and went on another impressive drive. The big play was a 40-yard run by Flores that put the ball at Park Hill South’s 6. Salima took care of the rest with a 4-yard run followed by 2-yard touchdown run. The extra point gave the Patriots a 14-0 lead with 6:05 left in the second quarter.
The problem for Park Hill South in the first half was its inability to move the ball once it got into Truman territory. On three drives, the Panthers moved to at least Truman’s 35 and then ran out of gas.