ARLINGTON — Highland Park was faced with its biggest test in more than a month. And like they have so many times before, the Scots passed.
HP opened up a big early lead and held off Frisco Independence 42-20 on Thursday in a Class 5A Division I area round playoff game at Globe Life Park.
The undefeated Scots (10-0) advance to meet either Magnolia or Frisco Lone Star in the Region II semifinals next week at a time and site to be determined.
“We probably played against the best quarterback and receivers we’ve played all year, and it’s not going to get any easier,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “There are going to be really good quarterbacks and really good receivers from here on out. It’s good to get our guys tested.”
However, by the time the Knights (5-5) found their rhythm, HP already had established a cushion. The Scots led 21-0 late in the first quarter, and reached the end zone on each of their first four possessions.
It continued the trend of first-quarter dominance for HP, which remarkably has outscored its last five opponents by a combined 159-0 in the opening frame.
Quick defensive stops and a potent rushing attack fueled the early surge. Brooks Bond and Anthony Ghobriel combined for 130 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
After a short punt by the Knights, Brayden Schager connected with Will Pettijohn on a 20-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the first quarter, making the score 21-0.
Independence cut the margin to 28-14 after consecutive scoring drives, the second of which featured some trickery to keep the chains moving. The Knights successfully executed a fake punt and a fake field goal, with kicker Tristen Kailey completing passes each time.
“They could score points, so we had to keep coming back and making plays,” Allen said. “It was a real physical game. I knew their defense would play hard. They didn’t give up any big plays.”
The Scots regained momentum after halftime with a defensive stand followed by a drive that consisted of seven runs and just one pass. Ghobriel’s 6-yard touchdown scamper stretched the advantage to 35-14 midway through the third quarter.
Independence tried to close the gap again, but standout quarterback Braylon Braxton floated an incomplete pass on fourth down inside the red zone on the opening snap of the final quarter.
HP followed with a time-consuming 87-yard drive, capped by a 7-yard scoring run by Bond, that essentially wrapped up the victory.
The Scots eliminated Independence from the playoffs for the third time in the last five seasons, following a bi-district win in 2016 and an area-round triumph in 2018.
Schager finished with 228 passing yards — 191 of which came before halftime — on 14-of-22 completions. Grayson Schrank had four receptions for 70 yards, while John Rutledge tallied five catches for 69 yards.
Braxton, a Tulsa signee, connected on 20 of 40 passes with three touchdowns for the Knights. His favorite target was Jordyn Tyson with 10 receptions for 141 yards and a one-handed scoring grab. But the potent Independence rushing attack managed just 36 yards, partially due to a handful of sacks by the HP defense.
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