Both Park Hill and Truman entered Friday night’s football game with momentum. Both squads had won seven straight games. Both also took direct aim on what was at stake — the Suburban Conference Red Division title.
By the end of the game, it was clear that Park Hill’s balanced offensive attack was just too much and the Trojans rolled to a 38-16 victory.
Park Hill did not waste any time. Just a few plays into the game, the Trojans started the excitment when Billy Maples hit Kentrez Bell on a 55-yard slant. Bell ran away from the Truman secondary and put his team up early. Bell and Maples also connected for another touchdown in the the third quarter.
“I just throw it up and trust them to go make plays for me,” Maples said.
Maples ended the game with impressive passing numbers. He competed 11-of-15 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns. His top target was Bell, who finished with 80 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s done a great job of picking up that system and really running it,” Park Hill coach Josh Hood said of Maples.
Truman hit a major obstacle when starting quarterback Dean Clemons came out of the game with an injured left elbow. He did not return.
After Clemons’ departure, Truman standout running back Jordan Salima took the ball out of the Wildcat formation. It got worse for the Patriots, who fumbled at the 1-yard line when they had a chance to tie the score.
After struggling through the rest of the first quarter, Park Hill wasted no time in the second quarter. Running back Zach Neal broke an early tackle and sprinted for a 90-yard touchdown run on the first play of second period. After the extra point, Truman led 14-0.
Neal led Park Hill in rushing, but teammate Dorian Clayton also carried a share of the load. Clayton ended up with 42 rushing yards and a touchdown of his own.
Having a balanced passing and running attack gave Park Hill an offensive advantage much of the game.
“We don’t try to feature any one (player),” Hood said. “We have six or seven kids who need the football in their hands. There’s not enough footballs to go around.”
Despite the injury to Clemons, Truman still established the run. Salima shouldered much of the load and scored on two touchdown runs and two two-point conversions to put Patriots ahead 16-14.
Salima had to take over as the signal caller and was the Patriots’ featured running back. He finished the game with 260 rushing yards, which gives Truman optimism moving through district play.
“Jordan’s a great back,” Truman coach Gregg Webb said. “ He’s unbelievable, especially with those slides and moves out there.
In the second half, Park Hill came out ready to play. The Trojans did not allow Salima nearly as much space to run at the point of attack, and that made a major difference.
:Park Hill then took to the air again with Maples throwing a nice fade to DJ Johnson early in the third quarter. Park Hill tacked on a few more touchdowns and controlled momentum after Truman was unable to find a passing game.
The conference championship is the second straight for Park Hill. Now, it’s time to look ahead.
“Everything now is another name on the banner,” Hood said. “It’s something they can show their kids 20 or 30 years from now. The kids really understand that and will do anything they can to bring it back to Park Hill.”
Park Hill improved to 8-1. Truman dropped to 7-2.