What a difference a week made for the Highland Park defense.
Just seven days after they surrendered 46 points in the second half of a heartbreaking loss in the season opener, the Scots stifled another high-powered offense during a 32-21 victory over Waxahachie on Friday at Highlander Stadium.
John Stephen Jones had another big game, and the HP defense forced two crucial second-half turnovers as the Scots scored 24 straight points to rally from an early deficit.
“We really didn’t adjust anything except our chinstraps,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “We just got tougher in the second half. We did a great job of tackling and keeping them away from the big play.”
HP bounced back with a strong performance after squandering a late lead a week ago at Rockwall. And the Scots also avenged a 40-37 defeat in Waxahachie last season that also ended with a wild finish.
Jones passed for 290 yards and two touchdowns, both to Finn Corwin, while Conner Allen added 110 rushing yards and a score. HP didn’t commit any turnovers.
The Scots (1-1) trailed 14-8 early in the second quarter when Jones connected with Corwin for a 16-yard touchdown, giving HP a lead it never relinquished.
Matteo Cordray extended the advantage to 18-14 with a 41-yard field goal late in the second quarter, atoning for an earlier miss.
From there, the Scots posted a handful of key defensive stops while their offense controlled the clock with an effective ground game. Allen and Benner Page each tallied 1-yard scoring runs after halftime, pushing the lead to 32-14 in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Scots stopped a potential momentum shift in the final minute of the third quarter. After the Waxahachie defense stuffed Jones on a fourth-down rushing attempt near midfield, the Scots got the ball back on the ensuing play when Cole Bohner stripped the ball from Indians receiver Kevin Green, and Hudson Clark recovered.
The Indians (1-1) had another scoring opportunity midway through the fourth quarter, but HP’s Ryan Khetan intercepted a Bryse Salik pass in the end zone.
In fact, the HP defense would have posted a second-half shutout if not for a Waxahachie touchdown on the game’s final play, when Salik found Tevin Wofford on a 14-yard pass.
“Their defense played really well,” said Waxahachie head coach Jon Kitna. “They did some different things that we hadn’t seen on film, and we didn’t do a very good job of adjusting. We had two costly turnovers in the red zone.”
Earlier, Waxahachie started the scoring with an impressive 72-yard opening drive, capped by a 2-yard touchdown plunge by Jerreth Sterns.
The Scots responded just one minute later, when Jones hit Corwin for a 16-yard score, followed by a two-point conversion that put HP ahead 8-7.
The Indians reclaimed the lead early in the second quarter on a 21-yard pass from Salik to Green, who caught the ball while tiptoeing the back of the end zone.
Salik connected on 23 of 32 passes for 216 yards — an average of less than 10 yards per completion — and two scores. The Indians, who rushed for more than 400 yards as a team in their season-opening victory over Garland Lakeview, managed just 87 yards on the ground against HP. Sterns finished with 111 all-purpose yards for Waxahachie while also making some plays in the defensive secondary.
After accumulating more than 250 receiving yards on 10 catches with three touchdowns last week, HP receiver Cade Saustad had just three catches on Friday for a team-high 85 yards, but picked up some clutch third-down yardage to keep multiple drives alive.
It was a balanced offensive performance for the Scots. They were efficient both on the ground and through the air, and Jones found nine different receivers with his 18 completions.
“John Stephen did a really good job of distributing the football and finding open receivers, and making things happen when he didn’t have anybody open,” Randy Allen said. “He scrambled well, and we had some receivers make some great catches.”
The Scots will have a short week to prepare for a road game against Mansfield Timberview on Thursday to wrap up nondistrict play.