Highland Park already has defeated two Mansfield ISD teams this season. In order to keep its playoff run alive, HP will need to take care of another one.
The Scots (11-2) will meet Mansfield Legacy (11-2) at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the Class 5A Region II final at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, looking to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2013.
That year, HP blasted Legacy 48-0 in the regional semifinals. But in this meeting, the stakes will be higher and the opponent likely will be tougher. Plus, both teams might be without key contributors on offense.
HP held off a Mansfield Lake Ridge rally last week for a 41-27 win. The Scots have been especially sharp on defense, where they didn’t allow a touchdown for 10 straight postseason quarters before tiring late against the Eagles.
On offense, the Scots have accumulated more than 700 rushing yards and scored 11 touchdowns on the ground so far in three postseason games. But Jack Kozmetsky, who has led HP in rushing in each of the past eight games, will miss Friday’s game with an arm injury he suffered during a terrific first half against the Eagles.
With Kozmetsky sidelined, the Scots will turn to Jacob Urbanczyk and Paxton Alexander, who have combined for 937 rushing yards and 15 scores this season.
It also could mean more reliance on the passing game led by quarterback John Stephen Jones, who has thrown for more than 2,600 yards this season with 25 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Leading receiver Cade Saustad is out with an injury, but HP has plenty of depth including J.T. Dooley and Jack Toohey, who each caught scoring throws in the area round against Frisco Independence.
Depth has always been a strength for the Scots, and that theory will be put to the test against Legacy, which is dealing with a serious injury of its own after defeating Frisco Wakeland 42-10 last week.
Dual-threat quarterback Kendall Catalon injured his non-throwing shoulder while scrambling on the final play of the first half against Wakeland and didn’t return. His status for Friday is uncertain, but he has passed for more than 1,500 yards this year and rushed for more than 1,000, accounting for 47 touchdowns.
Legacy still has other capable playmakers, including Kameron Session, who leads the team with 2,057 rushing yards and 17 scores. The receiver corps includes Trenton McDonald, Troy Edwards and Maliki Clay, who’ve combined for 27 touchdowns. On defense, sophomore safety Jalen Catalon had two interceptions and several big hits a week ago.
The Broncos are having the best season in the program’s eight-year history, having already set a new school record for wins and advancing to a regional final for the first time.
They have won eight consecutive games overall, including a 45-33 victory over Waxahachie — which defeated the Scots during nondistrict play. Legacy finished second behind Lancaster in a difficult District 10-5A during the regular season, and has outscored its three postseason opponents by a combined 167-31.
The winner of Friday’s game will meet either Colleyville Heritage or unbeaten Denton Ryan in the state semifinals next week.