By Alonso Tacanga / Special Contributor
GEORGETOWN — Afterward, Highland Park head coach Stewart Brown was in a good enough mood to crack a joke about his team giving up a goal in the first minute of the Class 5A state championship game on Saturday.
“That was actually part of our game plan, to go down a goal,” he said.
After the Lady Scots responded with three goals in the next 10 minutes en route to a 5-3 win over Aledo that made them the undisputed, undefeated state champions, it was time for all the laughs, smiles, hugs, and tears they pleased.
“I’m ecstatic for the girls, with being so close the last couple years,” said Brown, whose squad was the Class 6A runner-up in each of the past two seasons. “And for our seniors to go out state champions, unbeaten, 100 percent record this year, is absolutely amazing. Those girls have worked so hard for themselves and their teammates.”
One minute into the game, the Lady Scots (27-0) found themselves down on the scoreboard after Aledo’s Eden Wise scored on a rebound after a save from HP’s Ginny Hoy.
Aledo’s celebration was extremely short-lived, however, as two minutes later, Frances Ann Matise headed a loose ball into the Ladycats’ net to tie the game.
Two minutes later, HP’s Rachel Wasserman had a shot blocked, but an Aledo defender inadvertently kicked the ball back to her near the goal and Wasserman simply pushed the ball in to give her a team a 2-1 lead.
“When we got scored on, it was definitely not a good feeling,” said HP forward Presley Echols, who scored her team’s third goal in the 11th minute. “But I knew that we could come back, and just like we did the next minute, we scored. Then I knew we could do this.”
Sarah O’Neal added a fourth goal for the Scots in the 27th minute before Aledo’s Payton Laughley scored in the 31st minute. Echols added another goal, her fourth of the tournament, in the 60th minute. Cameron Huddleston of Aledo scored in the 68th minute.
After the game, all Lady Scots players ran into a huddle to hug and congratulate each other. They were soon joined by their bench, and they all fell down into a group hug in celebration.
Echols was named MVP as HP won its sixth state title in program history, and first since 2012.
“Right now I’m feeling probably the best feeling ever,” Echols said. “I’m still shaking, I’m so excited. It’s probably the most stressful game I’ve ever experienced after there were so many goals scored, but I always knew that we had it, and at the end the outcome was great.”
After scoring first, the Ladycats (22-4-3) continued to pressure the favored Lady Scots even after getting down by three goals two different times.
“Maybe it was a little too late,” Aledo head coach Bryan Johnson said. “Maybe if it was 4-3 we would have scared them a little bit more.”
HP wouldn’t let that happen. Although the script of the game was not what they envisioned, the result went exactly according to plan for the unbeaten 2017 state champions.
“Obviously it didn’t quite go as planned, but we responded extremely well,” Brown said.