With a program built on tradition, Highland Park got back to its traditional season-opening result at the Tom Landry Classic on Saturday.
The Scots did so in emphatic fashion by crushing Frisco Centennial 47-0 at Ford Stadium, earning their 10th victory in 13 tries in the Landry event.
HP lost each of the past two openers against Aledo, including 44-3 a year ago, but dominated the Titans from start to finish behind an experienced offense and an aggressive defense.
Brooks Burgin rushed for three touchdowns but was even more prolific through the air. Burgin completed 17 of 23 passes for 326 yards and three scores before exiting midway through the third quarter with the rest of the starting unit.
All three of Burgin’s touchdown passes went to Campbell Brooks, who had seven receptions total for 155 yards.
“Brooks had a good night throwing the ball to a lot of receivers,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “There were some great catches made tonight and a lot of big plays. I thought our pass protection was solid.”
Meanwhile, the relatively inexperienced HP defense was equal to the task, limiting a typically powerful Titans offense that returned several key components from a squad that won a district title in 2013. It was the first regular-season shutout for the Scots since October 2011 against McKinney North.
“The defense played with enthusiasm, and they’ve been practicing that way. I’m glad that it paid off tonight in a shutout,” Allen said. “Our guys played with a lot of leverage, we played great in the secondary and didn’t give up a big play.”
The Scots were limited in the rushing game, but it hardly mattered with Burgin showing the same form as he did much of last season, when HP reached the Class 4A Division I state semifinals.
Stephen Dieb set up the first Scots touchdown with a 32-yard punt return. Burgin found Sam Welfelt on a long pass on the next snap. He later scored on a 10-yard scramble.
HP broke the game open in the second quarter with four consecutive touchdown drives. Burgin scored his second rushing touchdown of the game to make it 14-0, capping a drive that included a 39-yard pass to Andrew Frost and a third-down pass in the red zone to Kevin Ken.
The Scots took advantage of good field position in the first half thanks to a combination of Centennial penalties, short punts, and turnovers.
HP started each of its next two possessions in Centennial territory, and needed less than a minute to score each time. Burgin found Brooks on scoring passes of 32 and 37 yards, and suddenly the score was 27-0.
Four plays later, Stephen Briggs intercepted a pass by Titans sophomore Court Walker near midfield, setting up another short drive that included a 34-yard reception by Brooks. Burgin capped the possession with a 4-yard plunge to extend the advantage to 34-0 at halftime.
Burgin found Brooks again on a 17-yard scoring pass on HP’s first possession of the second half. Carter McDade added a touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard run.
For Centennial, Walker finished 14 of 30 for 172 yards in his first varsity start. Anthony Pegues posted a game-high 76 rushing yards but struggled to break into open space for much of the night.
The Scots will have a short week of practice before returning home on Friday to face perennial powerhouse Pulaski Academy from Little Rock, Ark.
For the 13th straight year, Highland Park will open its season in the Tom Landry Classic.
With a 9-3 record in their previous 12 appearances in the annual neutral-site event, the Scots have more wins than any school in its history. They also have more losses.
HP was probably eager for a retooling of the matchups this season after losing decisively to Aledo in each of the past two openers, including 44-3 last year.
But the point of the Landry event is strong competition, and so Frisco Centennial won’t offer much of a break for the Scots as they prepare for a historic jump to Class 6A later this season. The game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at SMU’s Ford Stadium.
The Titans have won or shared three consecutive district titles at the Class 4A level and have been to the playoffs in each of the past four years. They are just two years removed from an appearance in the 4A state quarterfinals.
Of course, HP a much deeper pedigree in terms of victories and postseason success, in which it ranks first among all teams in the state. Last season, HP came within a late Denton Guyer rally of reaching the Division I state title game in its final 4A campaign.
Both teams return considerable experience on offense. Explosive receiver Devin McCord returns after leading Centennial in receptions and yardage a year ago, when the Titans fell to South Oak Cliff 63-37 in the second round of the playoffs.
The Scots likely will start nine seniors on offense, most of which saw extensive playing time during HP’s run to the Class 4A Division II state semifinals last fall.
Dual-threat quarterback Brooks Burgin returns after passing for 3,497 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. He also ran for 19 scores. Leading receivers Andrew Frost and Kevin Ken also will play prominent roles.
“We have quite a few starters back on offense,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “Senior leadership is always critical.”
At running back, Stephen Dieb and Hayden Black likely will share the bulk of the carries, with Carter McDade moving to the defensive secondary. The left side of the offensive line has experience with Jack Sides and Rees LeMay joining center Clayton Woods, who has verbally committed to UT-San Antonio.
Count Highland Park ISD superintendent Dawson Orr among those who support yesterday’s ruling of State District Judge John Dietz, which again declared state’s school finance system unconstitutional.
Attorney general Greg Abbott is expected to appeal the ruling, which is scheduled to take effect next summer, to the Texas Supreme Court. The judgment reaffirms a decision Dietz made in February 2013 before he revisited the issue to examine changed made by the Texas Legislature in 2013.
“We’ve all known for years that the school finance system is broken. Judge Dietz’s ruling supported that sentiment,” Orr said in a statement. “While we fully expect the ruling to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, we hope the Texas Legislature will not wait to provide the resources our students deserve. Despite a likely appeal, this ruling represents an important step for the school children of Texas.”
The ruling against the Texas Education Agency specifically addresses the socioeconomic disparities faced by certain school districts in light of state budget cuts that were only partially restored during the most recent legislative session. Texas ranks among the lowest states in the country in terms of spending per student, according to a recent study by the National Education Association.
Last year, HPISD joined the Texas School Coalition, which consists of 124 school districts throughout the state that are seeking school finance reform.
“Because of statutory mandates, rising academic standards and declining state funding, districts have lost meaningful discretion over their local property tax rates and have no opportunity to provide enrichment programming desired by their local communities,” said John Turner, an attorney for Haynes and Boone LLC, which represented the plaintiffs. “Judge Dietz correctly found that this situation results in a de facto state property tax, which is prohibited under the Texas Constitution.”
Meanwhile, state Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) said he disagrees with the ruling but acknowledged that the system needs to be fixed.
“While I fundamentally disagree with Judge Dietz’ reasoning and have confidence that Attorney General Abbott will prevail on appeal, it is clear to me that the Legislature must act boldly and decisively in the next legislative session to address this complex and critically important issue once and for all,” Villalba said. “Antiquated and ineffective constructs such as Robin Hood and quasi state-wide property taxes must be eliminated if we are to craft a fair and reasonable finance system that works for all of our Texas public school students.”
At the professional level, you can just sign a few free agents. At the college level, you can lure a couple of big-name recruits. But how do you keep winning at the high-school level, year after year, essentially on a level playing field with your competition?
That’s what intrigued Dallas-based documentary filmmaker Mickey Holden, who has worked on projects about big-name athletes for network television but couldn’t shake the concept of a film about the tradition that comes with Highland Park football.
“I’ve always been intrigued with why Highland Park is always good,” Holden said. “To keep winning I find remarkable. I wanted to find out what the secret sauce is.”
Holden’s finished project is an hour-long look at the Scots that coincides with the program’s 100th anniversary this fall. It traces the football team’s successes in the early years with Doak Walker and Bobby Layne to its most recent state title behind Matthew Stafford in 2005.
The film – called The History of Highland Park Football – will premiere on Fox Sports Southwest in October, with repeat airings scheduled throughout the fall. It also will be available on DVD.
Holden spent months interviewing those connected to HP, both past and present, to find out how the Scots climbed to the top of the ladder in terms of all-time victories and playoff appearances, among other lofty statistics.
“I think it’s tradition. The players are very close because they grew up together,” he said. “It’s a culture of excellence, and they do it in everything that they do.”
Holden had no difficulty locating interview subjects and finding archival photos and footage to use with the film.
“There’s a lot of memorabilia running around,” he said. “We just got to go out and start telling stories.”
Holden accumulated dozens of hours of footage, and the main challenge became cutting it down to the required length for television. He knew he had to keep the focus on the state champions and the big stars.
“There’s a really good show sitting on the floor,” Holden joked. “I’m probably going to disappoint some people.”
Holden, who produced a feature on HP football for “The Today Show” in the early 1980s, said great leadership has been an integral part of the program’s sustained excellence, from both great coaches and motivated players. He also credits community and fan support with playing a key role.
“I love the purity of the story. I love that these kids are playing because they want to,” Holden said. “They wanted to be with their friends and represent their school, and now they’re part of a continuum that goes back 100 years. There’s a bond that will always be there.”
Highland Park continued its strong showing in early-season volleyball tournament play by winning the bronze division title at the Allen tournament on Saturday. Then, the Lady Scots swept Keller in three tight sets in a nondistrict match on Tuesday, 27-25, 28-26, 25-22.
At the tournament, HP secured a three-set win over McKinney Boyd to reach the championship bracket. Once in that bracket, the Lady Scots (13-6) fell to Flower Mound before rebounding with victories over Coppell and Amarillo. They finished ninth overall in the tournament.
Next up, HP will travel to the Plano tournament on Friday and Saturday before returning home on Tuesday to face Midlothian.
You might know Troy Aikman. He played for the Cowboys, won some Super Bowls, earned a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and now is an Emmy-winning broadcaster. But apparently he smells good, too.
Aikman, a Highland Park resident, will sign specially designated footballs for customers who purchase more than $72 worth of Hugo Boss fragrances at the store. You also can call the store to pre-order and get VIP tickets for the line, which sounds like a good idea if you really want to meet him.
One of the really cool things about Clayton Kershaw is that regardless of whether he’s winning Cy Young awards, becoming one of the richest pitchers in history, appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” or dominating on the mound again this season, he never forgets where he’s from.
Last week, for example, the Dodgers standout returned to Highland Park ISD for its annual convocation breakfast for school district staff members and teachers. He made an appearance in support of his wife, Ellen, also an Highland Park High School graduate, who gave the keynote address.
Ellen’s speech referenced how her education in HPISD helped to inspire the Kershaws to launch various philanthropic initiatives, including those in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Africa.
The convocation included speeches from the district’s two Teachers of the Year — Ashley McCutchin and Chad Coffey — and performances by the Highlander Strings Orchestra and the HPHS bagpipers.
PLANO — If the purpose of a scrimmage is to discover your team’s strengths and weaknesses, then Highland Park coaches saw some of each on Friday against Plano West.
They saw the Scots move the ball consistently on offense, only to fall short of the end zone on multiple occasions. And on defense, they saw some new faces make some key stops while surrendering a few big plays along the way.
“I was pleased. I liked our hustle and our effort,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “I think we have a chance to be a really good football team and I think we’ll get better as the season goes on.”
The starting offense for HP scored once during the controlled portion of the scrimmage, during which each possession started on the 30-yard line. Brooks Burgin hit Campbell Brooks on a 53-yard pass that set up an 8-yard scoring strike to Hayden Black. Another drive for the Scots ended on an interception in the end zone.
Meanwhile, the Wolves scored twice with their first-team offense, including a 70-yard touchdown pass from Robert Colmery to a wide-open Alex Prince.
The defenses shined during a scoreless live quarter, with the Scots forcing Plano West into a three-and-out that included two stops of standout Wolves running back Soso Jamabo.
“I thought our defense played a really good series in the live quarter,” Allen said. “Our defensive line and our linebacker play — coming into the season, those were question marks, and I think those guys did a nice job and got better. Defensively, we just need some experience.”
Allen said he was happy with the work of new starter Stephen Dieb at running back, as well as some timely third-down catches by receivers that helped extend drives. Burgin managed the game effectively at quarterback, he said.
“Offensively, we moved the ball, and the things that stopped us, we can correct,” Allen said. “The reason you scrimmage is to find out what you need to work on.”
Now, the Scots will have a week to prepare for the regular-season opener on Aug. 30 against Frisco Centennial in the Tom Landry Classic. The Titans have won three straight district titles at the Class 4A level, so Allen knows there will be plenty of fine-tuning on the agenda before then.
“If you come out of a scrimmage feeling really good about yourself, you’d better be careful and you might be in for a rude awakening,” Allen said. “If you come out of a scrimmage not satisfied, and going into next week with the idea that we need to improve if we want to be a good team — that’s the attitude that we need to have.”
In his first season as Highland Park boys cross country coach, David Ripley isn’t planning a major overhaul, but rather a few minor tweaks.
He will bring back more traditional uniforms to replace the plaid outfits from last year. He will focus more on distance rather than speed during training. And he will scale back the schedule from seven to six meets during the regular season.
“We think that gives us maybe a competitive advantage and maybe fresher legs going into district,” said Ripley, who was promoted from assistant to head coach following the retirement of Randy Adair in the spring.
The goal is for the Scots to bounce back from a 12th-place finish at last year’s Class 4A state meet. That will be difficult with this year’s jump to the 6A classification, but HP has experience on its side, with six of the top seven runners returning from last season.
“They’ve got a lot of experience,” Ripley said. “They hold their destiny in their hands.”
On the girls side, HP will have to compete this season without Natalie Rathjen, who won a state title last fall and is one of the most decorated distance runners in school history. Hope McLaughlin will likely take over as the top athlete for the Lady Scots, who were second as a team at the state meet.
Both the boys and girls will compete in the same meets this fall, beginning with the Greenhill Six-Mile Relay on Saturday at Norbuck Park.
The District 10-6A meet is slated for Oct. 21 at Warren Sports Complex in Frisco.
Coaches and players get fired up every year about scrimmages. They don’t count, the play-calling is usually bland, and the structure is typically scaled back to alleviate injuries and such, but it presents the first time each fall when they can line up against an actual opponent.
So Highland Park will hold their annual scrimmage with Plano West tonight at Clark Field in Plano (varsity is set to begin about 6 p.m., from what we’re told), to give the Scots and their fans a chance to get the competitive juices flowing.
After tonight’s sneak peek, only a week remains until the regular-season opener against Frisco Centennial. That game is slated for 7 p.m. Aug. 30 at SMU’s Ford Stadium as part of the Tom Landry Classic.
By the way, we’ll be there tonight, so check back later for analysis from the scrimmage.