The one calling card that Park Hill’s football team has carried all year is the threat of the big play.
But in the Trojans’ biggest game of the season, those were few and far between.
Park Hill ended its season Friday night with a 22-10 loss at Nixa in a Missouri Class 5 semifinal game. The Trojans finished the season 13-1.
“We suffered through a little bit of adversity, but boy I can’t tell you that there’s a better team out there,” Park Hill coach Josh Hood said. “I know Nixa was the better team tonight, but fortunately for the last 100-some-odd days we’ve been practicing, we’ve been the best team that takes the field.
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“I couldn’t say enough good things about the character of this team and what they’ve done for the community. They deserve all the respect in the world.’’
Nixa, 9-4, which opened the season 1-4 and has won eight straight games, will play Columbia Battle for the state title at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 28 in St. Louis.
And Nixa earned it with a fantastic defensive performance that limited opportunities for the Trojans.
Park Hill notched a pair of first downs on its opening drive, but only netted one more in the first half. Fortunately for the Trojans, its defense was equally stifling. The only scoring in the first two quarters were a pair of field goals — from 33 and 30 yards — by Nixa’s Logan Tyler and a 33-yarder by Park Hill’s Parker Sampson.
“The way the score looked, the 6-3 ballgame, we felt good about our chances,” Hood said. “We came back from 10 down last week and we felt really good about getting the football back. We needed to set the tone and we weren’t able to set the tone.”
A horrible third quarter for Park Hill — which saw a pair of lost fumbles on punt returns, an interception and a turnover on downs — allowed Nixa to seize some momentum and run away with the game.
“They are very dangerous,” Nixa coach Rich Rehagen said. “It was such a tight game, a down-by-down game, you kind of felt like a mistake might turn the momentum.”
Park Hill’s first fumbled punt set up another 20-yard field goal by Tyler and the second fumble set up an 8-yard touchdown run Tyler that gave Nixa a 15-3 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
Nixa opened the fourth quarter with a five-minute drive that culminated with a 5-yard touchdown run by Tyler for a 22-3 advantage with 7:30 left in the game.
“We let them play on our side of the field all night, and that’s something we haven’t done all year,” Hood said.
Park Hill did score again as quarterback Jeremiah Benson — subbing for injured Tyler Holmes — connected with Kentrez Bell for a 22-yard scoring pass in the final minutes.
“Our defense always puts us in a great position, and they did again tonight,” Hood said. “We play good football and our offense, we just needed a couple of guys to step up and make plays tonight. And we’ve done that. We just didn’t do it tonight.”