Strong ground attack helps Wildcats stave off Park Hill

By Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner

Blue Springs broke out some old school football during a 24-21 victory over Park Hill Friday night at Peve Stadium.

The Wildcats, as the old adage goes, bent but didn’t break on defense and the offense churned out yards in bunches to claim a second straight win after an 0-2 start.

A late second-quarter field goal proved to be the difference in the final tally but the Trojans (1-3) kept attacking until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Three different times Park Hill had the ball with a chance to tie it or win it but came up empty each time.

“They (the defense) did a heck of a job,” Blue Springs coach David White said during a phone interview after his team improved to 2-2 and 1-2 in the Suburban Big Eight Conference. “We couldn’t put them away and we had penalties on both sides of the ball. It was frustrating to stay the least. We never could get over the hump to separate from them, but the defense did a heck of job late.”

The second half started with Blue Springs holding a 17-7 lead over Park Hill behind touchdown runs from Kaden Lutjen-Williams (1 yard) and DeAndre Thomas (25 yards) and a 26-yard field goal by Eli Youman.

After that conversion, Park Hill fumbled the kickoff and Blue Springs tried for another field goal but came up short on the 48-yard attempt.

Park Hill, now 2-4 against Blue Springs since joining the Suburban Gold division, rode the combination of Anthony Hall to Jake Powell to a score on the first drive of the third quarter. The two had a 23-yard connection that set up an 8-yard touchdown.

Blue Springs answered in a little more than two minutes. A 25-yard run by Thomas – who had 132 yards on the ground – moved the ball to the Wildcats’ 45-yard line. The next play, a personal foul moved the Wildcats to the 37-yard line. Quarterback Patrick Maloney hit Isaac Harkness for a 23-yard gain to the 15-yard line but a holding call negated the big play. That was one of 14 penalties for Blue Springs – not counting three that Park Hill declined – that lost the team 115 yards. 

The Wildcats ran the ball the next three plays, the last a 28-yard touchdown run by Lamana Tapusoa, a sophomore who stepped into the lead role that drive after an injury to Thomas, who later returned.

“We are gravitating toward running the ball more,” White said. “We have a first-year quarterback who is a senior and we have guys who can catch the ball, but we understand we need to have a running game. Blue Springs has run the ball for years and they have been good at it. We aren’t going to force something. We are who we are. We will use it as strength. We will throw the ball better, but tonight, we said, ‘Let’s keep running it.’”

It worked as the Wildcats ran for 300-plus yards for the second time this year, finishing with 328 on 53 carries. Thomas was the only with more than 100, but Tapusoa (71 yards), Maloney (67) and Lutjen-Williams (58) all averaged more than 5 yards a carry.

That was the final score for the Wildcats, but the Trojans responded in less than a minute. Hall, who threw for 168 yards, connected with Powell for a 28-yard gain. Then, Hall tossed a 26-yard gain to Iowa State commit Jaylin Noel, who was tackled at the 16-yard line. Powell, who had a team-high 87 yards receiving, then drew a pass interference call for the third time in the game. That set up a first-and-goal situation and Hall hit Powell for his second touchdown pass in the half.

Park Hill pulled with 24-21 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Trojans forced a turnover on downs just outside of the red zone to keep Blue Springs off the board but had to punt on the ensuing drive.

After forcing Blue Springs to punt, Park Hill got the ball back with 8 minutes to go, but an intentional grounding and offsides on back-to-back plays propelled the Trojans from Wildcats’ territory back to their own 26.

Blue Springs punted the ball away again and Park Hill started at its own 35 but only gained three yards before turning it over on an incomplete pass on fourth down with 1:40 left.

Blue Springs ran three plays to kill the clock.

Next up is a trip to Liberty North to face the pne of the Class 6 teams in Kansas City last season.

“We learn when we win and we learn when we lose,” White said. “Liberty North, they are well coached from what I understand. You got a bunch of good programs in this conference. We will need to fix the little things and get better. It could really make a difference on the road. It will be a very interesting challenge; we will have to be ready.”