It might have been the playoffs, but Thursday felt like the latter half of the regular season for Highland Park.
An efficient offense, an aggressive defense, and opportunistic special-teams play all contributed to another dominant first quarter during a 56-21 win over New Caney in a Class 5A Division I bi-district game at Highlander Stadium.
The unbeaten Scots (9-0) advance to meet Frisco Independence (5-4) in the Region II area round at 7 p.m. on Dec. 17 at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Anthony Ghobriel rushed for 100 yards and scored three first-quarter touchdowns, and Brayden Schager added 193 passing yards and two scores.
HP surged to a 28-0 lead before the Eagles even gained a first down by scoring on the opening drive and taking advantage of some New Caney miscues.
“We started fast, we got turnovers, we got field position, and those turned into scores,” said HP head coach Randy Allen, whose team has won eight consecutive first-round playoff games. “It was a pretty flawless first half.”
Ghobriel reached the end zone on a 38-yard scamper to cap the first HP possession. Then an errant New Caney punt snap gave the Scots the ball at the New Caney 17, and Ghobriel scored again on the next snap to make the score 14-0.
On the ensuing kickoff return, HP’s Blake Bevans pounced on a fumble to give the Scots favorable field position. This time, Christian Reeves added an 8-yard touchdown run.
The Scots scored on all six of their first-half possessions — the first five of which came on the ground — and led 42-0 at the break.
“We thought we matched up well with our offensive line and their defensive front,” Allen said. “They left us good numbers in the box to run the ball, and our guys did a really good job blocking for them.”
Ghobriel added a 7-yard touchdown late in the first quarter, and Brooks Bond scored from 15 yards out midway through the second quarter. In the final minute of the first half, a sack and fumble recovery by HP’s Isaiah Pedack led to a Crockett Corwin touchdown reception from Schager.
Meanwhile, the Eagles (5-6) managed just 68 total yards before halftime and crossed midfield only once, failing to establish any momentum.
The Scots extended the advantage to 49-0 to start the second half on a short scoring pass from Schager to John Rutledge. A few minutes later, they tacked on a 61-yard touchdown strike from Jack Jackson to Luke Rossley.
“To really be effective throwing the ball, you’ve got to be able to distribute the ball,” Whoever has got the best matchup or whoever is single-covered is the guy who’s going to get the ball,” Allen said. “We’ve got playmakers at every position.”
New Caney fared better on offense after halftime, successfully executing two fake punts and capitalizing with a Kendrick Reescano 34-yard touchdown run. But on the next possession, HP’s Christopher Zogg intercepted a tipped pass near midfield.
Cale Sanders rushed for a game-high 124 yards and two touchdowns for the Eagles, who hail from suburban Houston and finished fourth in a tough District 8-5A during the regular season.