CARROLLTON – By Highland Park’s lofty standards, the offense wasn’t functioning at full strength on Friday night.
Yet the Scots still scored 28 unanswered points and pulled away for a 49-17 win over Irving Nimitz in the bi-district round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs at Standridge Stadium.
So even if it wasn’t pretty, the bottom line is that HP advances to the area round, where the Scots (10-1) will meet undefeated Waco Midway (11-0) at 7:30 p.m. next Friday in Midlothian.
Against Nimitz, the Scots led just 21-17 at halftime before the defense shut out the Vikings (5-6) in the final two quarters. Mitchell Kaufman swung the momentum in HP’s favor on the opening Nimitz drive of the second half, when he returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown.
“Mitchell’s interception pretty much set the tone for the second half,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “We shut down the running game and didn’t give up any big plays. The third quarter was an outstanding quarter for us.”
Brooks Burgin threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter to help HP triumph by a comfortable margin.
Both of Burgin’s first-half touchdown passes went to Kevin Ken. The duo hooked up twice on HP’s first drive, and found the end zone on a 4-yard toss, and it looked like the Scots were rolling early.
But HP struggled through its next three possessions, during which it accumulated an interception, three sacks, and just one first down. Nimitz tied the game on a 1-yard run by Mark Eugene, who finished with 130 yards on 23 carries.
The Scots bounced back with their best drive of the night, going 83 yards in 15 plays midway through the second quarter, capped by a 7-yard pass from Burgin to Ken.
Less than a minute later, the Vikings responded with their biggest play of the night, with Jimmy Clark finding Sam Allen on a 65-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 14-14.
HP took the lead back on a 2-yard touchdown plunge by Matthew Barge, but the Vikings answered again in the final seconds of the first half, when a 50-yard run by Eugene set up a 33-yard field goal by freshman Jose Aguilar, who was making his varsity debut.
In the second half, however, HP ensured it wouldn’t be upset in the first round with improved efforts on both sides of scrimmage. After Kaufman’s interception made the score 28-17, Stephen Dieb scored on a 12-yard run to stretch the advantage to 35-17.
From there, the Scots took advantage of favorable field position, and Burgin connected with Sam Welfelt and Andrew Frost early in the fourth quarter to put the game away. With his final completion, Burgin reached 3,000 yards passing for the season.
“We moved the ball better in the second half,” Allen said. “I was proud of the way we responded. We were a little flat, and they played really hard. Our guys turned it around.”
Nimitz managed just 85 yards after halftime, and more than half of those came on a final drive as time ran out. The Vikings couldn’t generate much firepower after Clark left with an injury late in the third quarter and didn’t return.