While it was business as usual for the Highland Park defense on Friday night, the offense took a slightly different approach to yield the same results.
The Scots scored 34 unanswered points to rally past Lake Highlands 34-7 at Highlander Stadium for their 83rd consecutive home victory.
HP bounced back from a tough loss to Mesquite Horn last week, and remained a game behind the Jaguars for the District 10-6A lead with three games remaining.
On offense, the Scots took a more methodical approach than usual focused on establishing the run and controlling the clock. They ran 43 rushing plays and 16 passing plays — with just one completed pass in the first quarter — an unusual ratio considering HP’s quick-strike mentality.
One second-half drive covered 90 yards in 18 plays, and consumed eight minutes off the clock, ending in a 2-yard touchdown run by Hayden Black to help seal the win.
“It’s nice to know we can do that when we need to,” said HP head coach Randy Allen.
Just because the passes weren’t plentiful, however, doesn’t mean they weren’t effective. Brooks Burgin’s 11 completions racked up 237 yards, for an average of more than 21 yards per play. In fact, the 16 passing plays outgained the 43 rushing plays. But that can be deceiving.
“Balance in our offense means that if they give you the run, you’ve got to be good enough to take it and beat them with it,” Allen said. “We could have thrown the ball more, but the run was going good.”
Meanwhile, the HP defense got stronger as the game progressed. The Scots were stingy when it came to big plays, and surrendered only 80 yards in the second half.
HP spotted the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead when Lake Highlands marched 80 yards on its opening drive, scoring on a 53-yard pass from Brock Jones to Blake Cronin.
The Scots responded less than three minutes later, with Burgin capping the first HP possession with a 2-yard touchdown plunge.
Stephen Dieb later ran for two scores, while Burgin found Andrew Frost on a 34-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter that put the Scots ahead to stay.
The Wildcats had a chance to tie the score midway through the second quarter, but HP’s Daniel Gouskos recovered a fumble at the Scots 13-yard line. Dieb capped the ensuing drive with a short scoring run, and Lake Highlands never threatened after that.
Perhaps most importantly, after committing four turnovers in the defeat against Horn, HP was more efficient and didn’t have any miscues on Friday.
“I was really happy with the way they came back,” Allen said. “We made some improvements in certain areas, but still have some work to do.”
The Scots will hit the road for the next two games, including a third trip to Hanby Stadium next week to face Mesquite.
Last week’s loss to Mesquite Horn severely dented Highland Park’s chances of winning a district title in their first season at the Class 6A level. But it didn’t do much to harm the Scots’ playoff chances.
HP sits in a three-way tie for second place in District 10-6A entering tonight’s matchup against Lake Highlands, another one of the current runners-up (North Mesquite is the other). The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Highlander Stadium.
It should provide a solid test for the Scots (5-1, 2-1) as they look to bounce back from the 42-27 loss to the Jaguars, who now control their destiny atop the standings.
Lake Highlands is coached by Scott Smith, but it’s not the same Scott Smith who was Randy Allen’s predecessor at HP for three seasons during the mid-1990s. That Scott Smith retired two years ago.
But the guy with the same name at Lake Highlands has taken the Wildcats to the playoffs in each of the last six years — albeit with the last four runs ending in the first round.
The Wildcats (3-3, 2-1) might be the best team remaining on the schedule for the Scots, and also the opponent with the best chance of qualifying for postseason play, despite some inconsistency.
Lake Highlands had its best offensive performance of the season last week during a 45-38 overtime win over Richardson. Dual-threat quarterback Brock Jones rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns and added three scoring passes to Jamarice Preston, who finished with 169 receiving yards. Tyler Hughes added 126 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner.
HP struggled to contain the size and speed of Horn last week, but still had some bright spots despite committing four turnovers. Matthew Barge rushed for two scores, and Andrew Frost posted 111 receiving yards.
Plus, the Scots have always been known for their resilience. Remarkably, they haven’t lost consecutive games in the same season in almost 20 years.
Tonight’s contest will be the penultimate home game for HP this season. After tonight, the Scots won’t play at Highlander again until the regular-season finale against Richardson on Nov. 7.
Having already clinched a playoff spot in its first season at the Class 6A level, the Highland Park volleyball team still has some unfinished business as the regular season winds down.
For starters, the Lady Scots (24-11, 9-1) will hold their Senior Night festivities on Friday prior to their home match against Lake Highlands. A brief ceremony will honor graduating seniors Allegra Munoz, Caroline Downing, Eleanor Watson, and Grace Bonnet.
HP, which is in second place in the District 10-6A standings behind Richardson Pearce with four matches remaining, will play its final home match on Tuesday against North Mesquite.
We’ve done a few updates in the past on the weightlifting pursuits of 13-year-old Highland Park native Alexandra Thornton, but this weekend will represent perhaps her biggest challenge yet.
Thornton, an eighth-grader at Highland Park Middle School, will represent the United States in the 15-and-under girls division at the International Youth Invitational at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
She’s the top female lifter in the country in the 13U age group, and set a new American record for her age group this summer at the Youth National Championships weightlifting tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla.
She is slated to compete at 10 a.m. CDT on Saturday, and the event will be streamed live here.
The regular season still has almost a month remaining, but existing results combined with a peek into the crystal ball make the potential playoff picture clearer for Highland Park.
So here’s an early prediction: The Scots will face Jesuit in the bi-district round in their first year at the Class 6A level.
Of course, there are four games still left to play for each team, so a lot can happen between now and then. But it’s an educated guess, and here’s why.
Jesuit is in District 9-6A, and HP is in 10-6A. Both the Scots and the Rangers will be in the Division II bracket for schools with lower enrollments. The first round will put the top D-II team from 9-6A — likely the Rangers — against the runner-up D-II team from 10-6A — likely the Scots.
Both teams should be favored to win each of their remaining games, which means they would each place second in their respective districts. In 9-6A, Jesuit would finish behind Skyline, which will be in the D-I bracket, leaving the Rangers as the top D-II school from the district.
In 10-6A, HP would finish behind Mesquite Horn, after dropping the head-to-head meeting on Friday. Both of those schools would head to the D-II bracket, with Horn seeded first and the Scots second.
We’ll break down the potential postseason clash if and when it comes to fruition, but it would be an intriguing matchup of high-powered offenses for sure.
MESQUITE — Highland Park hadn’t lost a district game in more than six years before Friday. It’s possible they hadn’t met an opponent as stout as Mesquite Horn during that stretch.
The Jaguars used their speed on both sides of the ball to keep the Scots off balance in a 42-27 win at Hanby Stadium that ended HP’s 36-game district winning streak and put Horn in the driver’s seat in the District 10-6A standings.
While Horn receiver Jarrison Stewart was seeing an open field ahead of him for much of the night, HP quarterback Brooks Burgin found himself staring into a wall of defenders.
Stewart, who has verbally committed to TCU, responded with four touchdowns for Horn, including an early punt return that swung the momentum.
Meanwhile, with Burgin consistently being pressured and knocked down, the Scots (5-1, 2-1) committed an uncharacteristic four turnovers that contributed to favorable field position for the Jaguars (5-1, 3-0) for much of the game.
“We had a hard time blocking them. Brooks had to scramble and throw the ball away numerous times,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “They kept changing up their coverages and they kept us guessing. We just could never get anything consistently going.”
Things started favorably for HP with a 98-yard drive on the opening possession, one that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Burgin.
However, the Jaguars responded with three touchdowns — including two by Stewart — in a three-minute span later in the first quarter.
Stewart’s 67-yard punt return tied the score, and the Scots lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Five plays later, Stewart found the end zone again on a 20-yard pass from Chris Robison.
Horn turned up the pressure on Burgin on HP’s next possession, which led to an interception by C.J. Stallings. The Jaguars needed just two more plays to make the score 21-7 on a 19-yard run by Jordan Shavers, who finished with 100 yards rushing for the game.
After that, the Scots kept the game close but could never pull even. Matthew Barge trimmed the margin to 21-14 with a 7-yard scoring run early in the second quarter, but Horn responded when Robison found Stewart from 34 yards out on third-and-long.
Horn helped itself with several key third-down conversions in the first half. The Jaguars converted four third downs with at least 7 yards to go, with two of those plays resulting in touchdowns.
Horn threatened to pull away in the third quarter. An early fumble by the Scots led to a missed field goal, but Stewart caught his third touchdown pass from Robison moments later to make the score 35-14.
HP made its biggest play of the game on the next possession, gambling on fourth-and-2 from its own 43-yard line. Burgin hit Sam Welfelt for a 57-yard score down the right sideline.
That play seemed to spark the Scots, who stopped the Jaguars on downs deep inside Horn territory. Barge plunged into the end zone from 2 yards out to cut the deficit to 35-27, following a blocked extra point.
HP had its chances in the fourth quarter, but Karlos Arthur intercepted a pass near midfield in the closing minutes, setting up a game-clinching 27-yard touchdown run by Dalen Morgan, a 290-pound converted defensive lineman.
“They’re the best team that we’ve played this year,” Allen said of Horn. “We needed to see a team with this kind of talent. We’ll find some areas that we need to improve and we’ll be better from this game in the playoffs.”
The Horn defense held the Scots in check after halftime. After a solid start, Burgin was forced to hurry several throws and was sacked five times, which contributed to the Scots finishing with just 43 rushing yards. Andrew Frost led HP in receiving with seven catches for 110 yards.
Robison, a sophomore, completed just 16 of 33 passes, but had three touchdowns, and perhaps more importantly, no turnovers.
Following its first loss at the Class 6A level, the Scots dropped into a three-way tie for second place in the district with four games remaining, including a matchup at home against Lake Highlands next week.
When the UIL announced its redistricting assignments in February, the big news wasn’t that Highland Park would jump to Class 6A — that was already known at the time — but who their district opponents would be.
Among football folks, the initial reaction was the Scots got a favorable draw under the circumstances, with the Richardson and Mesquite schools keeping travel to a minimum (three trips to Mesquite, as it turns out) and placing HP with schools of similar size.
In terms of competition, District 10-6A also put the Scots in a district in which they would likely be able to contend immediately for a league title. The primary obstacle to such an accomplishment, some said, would likely be Mesquite Horn.
So tonight’s showdown between the Scots (5-0, 2-0) and Jaguars (4-1, 2-0) at Hanby Stadium might have more at stake than the average midseason clash. The winner will take sole possession of first place in the 10-6A standings, and will have the inside track to the top Division II playoff seed from the district.
The Scots will try to keep alive a 36-game winning streak in district play that dates back to 2008. But they’ll need to contend with a Horn squad that will have both a size and speed advantage, and has been more battle-tested through the first half of the season.
Horn has averaged 52 points per game in a pair of lopsided victories to start league play behind sophomore quarterback Chris Robison, who has emerged as one of the top passers in the area. He threw five touchdown passes last week, all in the first half, during a 62-12 road win over Richardson Berkner.
Thus far, HP’s transition to the 6A level has been remarkably smooth, with three shutouts in five games and an offense that averages almost 50 points per game.
Brooks Burgin has accumulated 1,223 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, with a deep corps of receivers including Kevin Ken, Campbell Brooks, and Andrew Frost.
Meanwhile, Stephen Dieb has become a weapon at running back, with two straight 100-yard games. He scored four touchdowns in a 56-0 drubbing of Richardson Pearce last week.
We’ve almost taken for granted the continued excellence of the Highland Park tennis team, which is attempting to win its 16th state team title this fall.
But it would be a shame to overlook the significance of last week’s accomplishment, when the Scots wrapped up the District 10-6A title with a 19-0 win over Richardson. HP dominated the district, and became the first team at the school to clinch a league title at the 6A level.
The Scots will tune up for the postseason with a nondistrict match at Grapevine on Oct. 14. The district tournament will be Oct. 21-22 at Fair Oaks Tennis Center, followed by the regional tournament on Oct. 31 in Mansfield.
A week ago, Highland Park needed to rally after a slow start to win its District 10-6A opener. On Friday against Richardson Pearce, there were no such issues.
The Scots overwhelmed the Mustangs from the get-go and earned their third shutout of the season with a 56-0 homecoming victory at Highlander Stadium.
Stephen Dieb posted his second straight 100-yard rushing game, this time finishing with 108 yards on just nine carries with four touchdowns — all in the first half. By the time he reached the end zone on the final play of the second quarter, the Scots built a 42-0 advantage.
“We were in sync throwing the ball and running the ball,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “I’m also real proud of our defense.”
They scored touchdowns on seven of their first eight possessions, and the only time the Scots (5-0, 2-0) didn’t hit paydirt, they drove inside the Pearce 5-yard line before coughing up a fumble.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs (1-4, 0-2) crossed midfield only once, and that was on the opening drive of the game, which ended with Mitchell Kaufman intercepting an ill-advised fourth-down pass and returning it 61 yards for a score. For the senior linebacker, it was his second touchdown this season and fifth of his career.
The HP offense picked up the momentum from there, racking up 373 total yards before halftime. Brooks Burgin threw his only touchdown pass on the Scots’ first possession, hitting Kevin Ken on a 5-yard strike. The pair has connected five times on touchdown passes already this year.
Dieb crossed the goal line to cap four of the next five drives for the Scots, including a 49-yard scamper in the final minute of the first quarter. His three touchdowns in the second quarter came on runs of 2, 19, and 5 yards.
The game couldn’t have been scripted better for HP, which was able to rest its starters in the second half prior to a key showdown against fellow 10-6A title contender Mesquite Horn next week.
“Going into the Horn game, we’re playing pretty good football,” Allen said. “Next week is our big challenge. Our guys knew it when the season started. We’ll have to be at our very best.”
The Scots were terrific on defense again, limiting Pearce to 147 total yards and forcing three turnovers. The Mustangs completed just nine of 29 passes and gained an average of two yards per pass attempt.
Stephen Briggs had an interception in the second quarter and also returned a punt 49 yards after halftime. Jeremy Tillman recovered a fumble.
HP tacked on two touchdowns in the third quarter, one on a 14-yard pass from Will Jackson to Jeffrey Kupp, and the other on a 4-yard run by Hayden Black.
It was the 82nd consecutive home win for HP, which remained perfect as the regular season reached the midway point.
Of all its new opponents in District 10-6A this season, none has a bigger history against Highland Park than Richardson Pearce.
HP and the Mustangs have met numerous times in almost every sport, including football, giving tonight’s 7:30 p.m. matchup at Highlander Stadium some points of reference.
A couple of things have prevented a full-fledged gridiron rivalry, depending on your definition of the term. Pearce has bounced back and forth between classifications a couple of times during the past decade to interrupt continuity, and the Scots have dominated the series.
Most recently, the two schools were district foes for six straight years between 2006 and 2011, with HP winning every year. The final three clashes, however, were close contests, resulting in an average margin of victory of 9.3 points.
Such drama might be lacking in tonight’s contest, which will continue the Scots’ first season of 6A competition. HP (4-0, 1-0) rallied after a slow start to post a 29-9 road win over North Mesquite last week in its district opener.
The Mustangs (1-3, 0-1) have allowed an average of 48 points per game in its last three outings, including a 48-30 defeat against previously winless Richardson in its league opener.
Most of the firepower for Pearce comes from the arm of Austin Noland, who has thrown for 579 yards and five touchdowns, with three interceptions through four games. He’s part of a two-quarterback system with dual-threat Hank Hughes, who also leads the fledgling Pearce rushing attack.
The Scots, of course, have surrendered nine or fewer points in three of their four victories. Brooks Burgin has thrown 11 touchdown passes, including four apiece to Campbell Brooks and Kevin Ken, and also has rushed for four scores.
Meanwhile, Stephen Dieb has emerged as a legitimate rushing threat for HP after posting a career-high 140 yards and a touchdown last week against the Stallions.