Highland Park proved how good it could be during a 70-2 dismantling of Mount Pleasant last weekend in its playoff opener, but the Scots’ rivals in District 15-5A made a strong statement, too.
All four playoff representatives from the district won their bi-district games, including West Mesquite’s upset of previously unbeaten Texarkana Texas High.
In all, half of the teams that HP played during the regular season are still alive. And perhaps that experience might serve the Scots well in preparing for a deep postseason run.
But without looking too far ahead, they will first need to contend with upstart Frisco Independence, which won its first playoff game in program history last week against McKinney North. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco.
The new practice home of the Dallas Cowboys also was the setting for HP’s bi-district round game on Nov. 12, which presented an ideal opportunity to get back on track following a loss to Wylie East in the regular-season finale. And the Scots responded in a big way by dominating on both sides of scrimmage.
The Scots scored 10 touchdowns. Four of those came from the arm of John Stephen Jones, whose 13 completions went for 240 yards in just over two quarters. They also rushed for 268 yards and six scores — all by different ball carriers. Jack Kozmetsky rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown while also catching two scoring passes from Jones.
As for the defense, HP allowed only 65 total yards and two first downs, and the Tigers never crossed midfield while punting 10 times. The statistics go on from there, but the final margin is an adequate representation.
At any rate, the competition level will increase this week against the Knights (9-2), who tied for second place in District 13-5A during the regular season.
The playoff debutante had its first winning season this year after combining for a 3-17 mark in its first two varsity campaigns behind a high-powered offense that averaged more than 46 points per game and surpassed the 50-point plateau five times.
Leading that attack is dynamic running back Dom Williams, a Parish Episcopal transfer who has rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season and has 33 touchdowns. The passing game is equally potent, spearheaded by quarterback Kyle Saddler (2,482 passing yards with 29 touchdowns and just five interceptions) and receiver Colton Nielsen (14 touchdown receptions).
Independence also bounced back from a loss in its final regular-season game with a strong bi-district performance against McKinney North. Saddler threw six touchdown passes — three to Nielsen — as the Knights rolled up 565 total yards and pulled away in the fourth quarter.
It could be an offensive showcase, with the winner meeting either Mansfield Lake Ridge or Samuell next week in the regional quarterfinals.