Scots, Wildcats Share Tradition, Resiliency

Highland Park's J.T. Dooley has been a valuable contributor during the team's playoff run. (Photo: Chris McGathey)
Highland Park’s J.T. Dooley has recovered from injuries to become a valuable contributor during the team’s playoff run. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

For Highland Park, the 800th win in program history held more significance than most of those that came before it.

Reaching that milestone on Saturday against Denton Ryan puts the Scots in their seventh state championship game, and perhaps their most unlikely, considering the adverse circumstances this team has overcome.

After all, while HP is back in the title game for the first time since 2007, the Scots statistically had their worst regular season in almost 20 years, being dealt two losses for the first time since 1998. That streak was one of many remarkable achievements in program history. But somehow, the Scots have been on fire for the past six weeks.

HP has suffered significant injuries during its postseason run, especially on offense. However, the Scots (13-2) have shown plenty of grit and resiliency along the way. Last week, they rallied past the previously undefeated Raiders without their top two running backs or wide receivers for the second half.

Of course, HP has more wins than any other program in the state. But on Saturday in the Class 5A Division I state title game at AT&T Stadium, the Scots will face Temple, which ranks fourth on that same list with 749 victories.

The Scots won their most recent championship in 2005, completing a perfect 15-0 season with a 59-0 thrashing of Marshall in the title game. That same season, the Wildcats endured their worst campaign in school history at 0-10.

But Temple has risen back to prominence, winning a combined 13 playoff games during the past three years. In 2014, the Wildcats lost to Aledo in the 4A Division I state championship game. The Wildcats are 2-6 all-time in title games, with their crowns coming in 1979 and 1992.

HP and Temple share more than tradition. Neither was widely expected to be playing on the final weekend of the season. The Wildcats (12-3) dropped three games during the regular season, including a close loss to College Station that caused them to finish second in District 18-5A.

But like the Scots, Temple has found its stride during the playoffs, with upset wins over previously unbeaten Manvel and Richmond Foster during the past two weeks.

As it usually works out, the two teams left standing might not be the most consistent record-wise since late August, but they are both peaking at the right time.

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