MESQUITE — At its best, Highland Park can beat you in multiple ways — running, passing, defense, special teams. Pick your poison.
The Scots combined all of them during a 60-28 victory over West Mesquite on Friday at Mesquite Memorial Stadium. HP won its eighth consecutive game while clinching a share of the District 7-5A Div. I title and a top seed in the playoffs.
There were big plays on offense courtesy of junior quarterback Brennan Storer, who threw three touchdown passes and ran for two scores. Jay Cox scored a rushing and a receiving touchdown and contributed all over the field.
As for the defense, the Scots (8-1, 5-0) surrendered 595 total yards but forced four turnovers and tallied a safety. And the special-teams units consistently tilted field position in HP’s favor.
“The further back you can put them, the better your chances of having success,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “We’re real happy with our kicking game. And we think we’ve got some guys who can go all the way on returns.”
For much of the night, West Mesquite didn’t resemble a team that extended its losing streak to six games and remained winless in district play.
The Wranglers (2-7, 0-5) stayed within striking distance for much of the game thanks to an array of quarterback draws, jet sweeps, and innovative formations. Such trickery yielded three long touchdown passes from Craig Dale to T.J. Turner. Dual-threat quarterback Dale threw for 394 yards and ran for 104, while the lanky Turner caught eight passes for 311 yards.
“We gave up some big plays on some gadget plays, but we got better as the game progressed,” Allen said. “Most of the time, when you look at turnovers, you can tell who won the ball game.”
HP capitalized on a turnover on West Mesquite’s first drive after Jack Curtis forced a fumble near midfield. Storer scored on a 9-yard run moments later.
Storer added a 36-yard touchdown scamper on the next possession to give the Scots a 14-0 lead they never relinquished.
The Wranglers reached the end zone on a short run by Gabriel Corona early in the second quarter. However, the extra point was blocked and returned for two points by HP’s Blake Bevans.
HP added a safety midway through the second quarter by swarming Dale in his own end zone. John Rutledge returned the ensuing free kick to the West Mesquite 28. And three plays later, Christian Reeves punched in another score to stretch the margin to 25-6.
Cox got going late in the second quarter, catching passes on back-to-back snaps including a 29-yard score. He finished with four receptions for a team-high 111 yards.
Cox added a touchdown plunge to cap a run-heavy drive to start the second half, giving HP a 39-14 advantage. That started a crazy stretch in which the teams combined for four touchdowns on four consecutive plays.
Two of Turner’s three scores came on completions of 75 and 94 yards during that flurry. However, the Scots answered with a 68-yard strike from Storer to Jackson Heis sandwiched in between.
By the time the scoreboard returned to a sense of normalcy, the score was 46-28, and HP still had some work to do.
The defense obliged by forcing West Mesquite miscues on three straight possessions. Daniel Shawver recovered a fumble near midfield, leading to a scoring toss from Storer to Luke Herring.
A short time later, Adam Rourke’s long interception return set up Ben Croasdale’s 11-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the fourth quarter, enabling HP to reach the 60-point barrier for the first time this season.
West Mesquite had two more scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter, but one collapsed following an interception by HP’s Preston Taylor, and the other ended on downs in the final moments.
“At times we looked really good, and at other times we didn’t. That’s the inconsistency we’re dealing with,” said West Mesquite head coach Frank Sandoval. “We’ve been very competitive in every game. We’ve made significant progress. We’re moving in the right direction.”
Reeves finished with a team-high 90 rushing yards for the Scots, who averaged more than eight yards per attempt on the ground.
With their postseason position already secure, HP will return home next week to face Wylie East in the regular-season finale.