Topping Lee’s Summit in OT, unbeaten Park Hill South clinches share of conference title

·3 min read

Park Hill South stayed unbeaten at 8-0 with a 34-27 overtime victory at home over Lee’s Summit Friday night.

It didn’t come easy, but the victory clinched a share of the Suburban Red conference title for the Panthers.

“We had a lot of ups and downs, and I’m sure we doubted ourselves a little bit,” Park Hill South coach Alan Wilmes said. “But what mattered, in the end, is we had some heart and we kept playing

After building a 10-0 lead in the opening quarter, the Panthers’ second period included a trio of three-and-outs, a turnover on downs and a fumble deep in their own territory with just under 90 seconds left in the half.

It was that late fumble, recovered by the Tigers on the Park Hill South 17-yard line, that primed Lee’s Summit (3-5) to take a 14-10 lead. But Park Hill South responded with a 49-second touchdown drive.

It took the Panthers two tries — on the same play from the 4-yard line — to punch it in.

Lined up 4 yards from the Lee’s Summit goal line with 10 seconds until intermission, Park Hill South quarterback Nathan Ricco floated a pass to the back corner of the end zone. Rising high above his defender, Mudia Reuben pulled it down and the home crowd roared.

A hush followed: The side judge had waved off the TD, ruling Reuben hadn’t gotten his feet down inbounds. The Panthers’ solution? They lined up in the same formation. And Ricco once again floated a pass to the corner for Reuben.

He made the catch, the Panthers cheered again, and this time the touchdown stood, giving Park Hill South a 17-14 lead at the break.

“We’ve got a special player out there in Mudia Reuben, and he’s Division I for a reason,” Wilmes said of Reuben, who has garnered interest from Kansas State and Stanford. “He goes up and makes plays, and we figured why not throw it to our best guy out there and see if he can come down with it? And he did.”

The Panthers opened the second half with a field goal to take a 20-14 lead, but Lee’s Summit responded with two touchdowns — converting twice on fourth down — to take a 27-20 lead late in the game. Tigers quarterback Alex Benassi connected with senior tight end Landen Shepard for one TD Friday night.

With Park Hill South’s undefeated record on the line, Ricco marched the Panthers down the field in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. He completed back-to-back 28- and 29-yard strikes to Reuben to tie it up and ensure overtime.

“I thought we didn’t have to change anything,” Ricco said. “Going into that drive, just do what we’ve been doing — we’ve been driving them all game.”

In overtime, the Panthers needed just three plays to find the end zone. Ricco hit Reuben for a 13-yard touchdown — Rico’s fourth TD pass of the night. He accounted for 317 total yards, and Reuben and teammate Hayden Klein each scored a pair of touchdowns.

“It’s awesome” Ricco said. “We’re always on the same page. No matter where I am, they’re there. They are always making catches, and I can’t ask any more (from them).”

The Panthers can claim the conference championship outright next week with a win at 1-7 St. Joseph Central.

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