The Trojans, who advanced to the Missouri Class 6 semifinals just two seasons ago, are looking to enjoy that success again in 2019. And with a few key pieces returning, Park Hill may be able to do just that.
Entering the season, the buzz will surround the Park Hill’s defense, particularly up front led by senior defensive end Johnny Wilson (6-foot-3, 255). Wilson entertained a bevy of Power 5 offers before committing to Iowa State, and will make a run at the area’s player of the year for sure. Wilson notched 81 tackles – 17 for a loss – with six sacks and 20 hurries in 2018.
“Johnny has been a leader for us for some time now,” Park Hill head coach Josh Hood said.” His work ethic and demeanor are perfect for a leader. This season, however, he has really worked to develop as a player off the field. He loves the weight room and the extra work required to be great, but we look forward to seeing him lead a group of talented young men this year.”
Jameel Burns (left) and Johnny Wilson will help lead the Trojans defense in 2019. (Photo: David Smith, 810 Varsity)
Joining Wilson up front will be another force in defensive tackle James Gore. The 6-0, 305-pound senior racked up 56 tackles – 23 for a loss – while helping stuff the middle as well and holds offers from DIAA and Division II schools.
“James was just what the doctor ordered for Johnny and our team,” Hood touted. “He pushes many of our players to another level with his drive, intensity, and freakish strength in the weight room. Both he and Johnny embrace the extra work it took to make themselves two of the top players in the area this season, and we look forward to watching them on the field this year.”
Senior James Gore will cause problems for lines on the defensive front. (Photo: David Smith, 810 Varsity)
Joining the duo will be senior defensive end Dexter Curry (6-foot-4, 260), who transitions from offense to defense, but as a basketball player, should bring athleticism at the end.
The linebacker unit returns starting outside linebacker Mikey Miles (6-foot-2, 195), who tallied 59 tackles as a junior. Fellow senior Jameel Burns (6-foot-4, 200) shifts from defensive end to outside linebacker, as he notched 55 tackles a year ago.
“Mikey brings a lot of energy to the defense,” Hood stated. “Jameel has impressive speed with one of the best 20-yard dashes on the team, and will develop throughout the season.”
Senior Vince Reichert (5-foot-11, 210) also returns at inside linebacker. Juniors Chris Bizzle (5-foot-10, 215) and Chris Marshall (6-foor-4, 170) will see time at linebacker positions. Sophomore Parris Graves (5-foot-10, 210), younger brother of Park Hill standout Chester Graves, will shift between linebacker and defensive end too.
One of the more exciting players for the Trojans returns in the secondary in senior Javion Gathrite (6-foot-1, 185). The safety tallied 51 tackles last year, and will see time at linebacker at times too. Gathrite also holds offers from Iowa State, Northern Illinois and Air Force.
“Javion may be the best athlete on the defense, and versatile on offense and defense,” Hood said. “He may be a kid that goes from relatively unknown to All-Everything this season.”
Joining Gathrite in the secondary will be senior Antonio McCullough (6-foot-3, 175), who Hood believes has Division I potential at cornerback as former Trojan Devin Haney did.
Juniors in cornerback Anthony Reyes (5-foot-9, 170), nickelback Sam Sweeney (5-foot-10, 175) and safety Jacob Schreck (6-foot-1, 175) also round out the secondary.
Offensively, Park Hill will see some new faces, starting at quarterback in junior Anthony Hall (6-foot-4, 175).
“He has been groomed for this job for a couple of years now in hopes of bringing back the more high-flying offense we had a couple of years ago,” Hood touted. “He is an outstanding classroom student (4.0 GPA) as well as student of the game. We look for him to be effective in taking the reins of the offense and getting the ball to the right athletes each play. He will be a leader for us the next two seasons.”
His main target is one of the more electrifying players in the Metro in wideout Jaylin Noel (5-foot-10, 175). Just a junior, Noel caught 36 passes for 498 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, and a kickoff return too. Noel also has offers from the likes of Minnesota and Iowa State.
Along with Noel will be senior receiver Evan Samborski (6-0, 180) and sophomore PJ Caldwell (6-0, 170).
In the backfield, Gathrite (365 yards, 2 TDs) will be joined by senior Darrion Neal (5-foot-10, 195), who transitions from starting outside linebacker last year.
“He fits very well in our scheme as a running back this yea,” Hood said. “He is extremely athletic, dependable and hard-working.”
Senior Eric Carey (5-foot-9, 210) also returns after running for 206 yards and a couple scores in 2018.
Up front, senior Tanner Nelson (6-foot-2, 255) returns as a starter, and shifts to center. Fellow senior Jairen Montgomery (6-foot-2, 290) and junior Tait Smith (6-foot-4, 285) each were starters in 2018 until injuries sidelined each player. Junior Ryan Winfrey (5-foot-11, 255) also returns as a starter.
Park Hill, which enjoyed double-digit win totals in 2014, 2015, and 2017, finished at 5-5 in 2018, and Hood underwent a reboot of the program.
"We are excited to take the program into its second phase at Park Hill,” Hood said. “We have re-evaluated our program at every angle and challenged our players to outwork individuals and take that next step toward success playing against the elite competition we face every week. This was one of the best off-seasons we have had in my time here so I am excited to see the product on the field this summer.”
But with a strong group of seniors and playmakers, Park Hill looks to return to the discussion of tops in the city.
“Our challenge will be to prepare and compete like champions each and every week while developing the depth in our roster that is required to play in the double digit weeks of Class 6,” Hood finalized. “For now, however, we are setting our sights on making ourselves better and competing each day with our eyes on our week one opponent. We need to do a better job preparing mentally and physically for such a high quality opponent in that first game.”