RICHARDSON – It wasn’t always pretty, but Highland Park players hoisted a District 10-6A championship trophy at the end of their regular-season finale on Friday.
The celebration came moments after the Scots polished off a 44-30 victory over Richardson that completed an unbeaten run through the district in HP’s second season in the state’s top classification.
The Scots (9-1, 7-0) will look to follow that impressive achievement with a deep playoff run beginning on Nov. 13, when HP will host Irving Nimitz (5-5) in the bi-district round.
“This is a culmination of seven weeks of hard-fought games,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “They made plays when the game was on the line. Our guys play hard no matter what.”
Indeed, the campaign included plenty of adversity, with some surprisingly close games and a 40-13 loss to Arkansas private-school powerhouse Pulaski Academy in Week 2 that snapped an 84-game home winning streak.
Once the 10-6A schedule began, however, the Scots played with more resiliency and resolve. They earned a hard-fought 28-27 win over North Mesquite in the league opener, and two weeks later defended their home field again with a 24-17 victory over defending district champion Mesquite Horn.
Plus, HP showed it could win in a variety of different ways, with an offense that sparked both on the ground and through the air, and a defense that seemed to improve with each game.
Still, Allen acknowledged the Scots have to clean up some sloppy play and miscues from Friday, when HP allowed Richardson to stay close by committing four turnovers, including a fumble in the red zone and two muffed punts.
“When you turn the ball over and give them field position, and they turn it into points, you’re going to have a close game,” Allen said. “We’ve got things we have to work on. You hope that in the playoffs, they’ll shift into another gear. And if we’re going to stay in the playoffs, we’ll have to improve.”
Fortunately for the Scots, Stephen Dieb was as reliable as ever, churning out 173 yards and three touchdowns to keep the Eagles (1-9, 1-6) at bay. He surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the season during the second quarter.
Henry Allen added a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes to Jeffrey Kupp and Chris Buell as the Scots pulled away following a tight first half.
In fairness, Richardson didn’t play like a team on a five-game losing streak. Dynamic quarterback Michael Johnson found Kahlil Lacy for two touchdown passes and also ran for two scores.
However, the HP defense suffocated the Eagles for the most part, holding them to 44 rushing yards and forcing four turnovers. One of those came on a fourth-quarter interception that John House returned for a touchdown to put the game out of reach. Andrew Petrucelli also intercepted a pass in the third quarter that set up a score.
Will Moore hit a 43-yard field goal to open the scoring for the Scots early in the second quarter.