What looked like a blowout on paper almost turned into a nailbiter on the field for Highland Park on Friday. And it might have been a blessing in disguise.
The Scots wrapped up the regular season by rallying for a 38-20 victory over Wylie East at Highlander Stadium, in the process clinching an outright title in District 7-5A Div. I.
After extending its winning streak to nine games, HP will open the playoffs by hosting New Caney on Nov. 12 in the bi-district round.
“The playoffs are a new season,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “We’ll put an exclamation point on this one, and then everybody is 0-0. The team that gets hot is the one who’s going to play the longest.”
Brennan Storer passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns, and also ran for a score, as the Scots (9-1, 6-0) answered a slow start with 35 consecutive points to pull away in the second half.
John Rutledge tallied eight receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns for HP. Christian Reeves scored twice — once on the ground and once through the air.
“Our guys came back and took control of the game,” Allen said. “Any time you come from behind, it gives you confidence, but I want a fast start and want to get out front. We’re going to work on that.”
The Raiders (3-7, 1-5) took an early 14-3 lead thanks to some big plays on the ground. Terrell Washington capped a 99-yard drive with a first-quarter touchdown run. He had a 75-yard scamper earlier in the same possession.
Less than a minute after a Jack Stone field goal put HP on the board, Wylie East’s Tristan Lee scampered 59 yards into the end zone to give the upset-minded Raiders a 14-3 advantage.
Then the Scots found their stride, starting with a Christian Reeves scoring plunge on the opening play of the second quarter.
Adam Rourke recovered a fumble at the HP 35-yard line with 4:20 left in the first half, and the Scots took the lead four plays later on a 14-yard touchdown strike from Storer to Rutledge.
HP reached the end zone on all three of its drives in the third quarter to expand the cushion. Storer connected with Reeves on a 31-yard scoring pass, then found Rutledge for a dazzling 58-yard touchdown.
The Raiders failed on a fake-punt attempt deep in their own territory, leading to an 11-yard scoring burst by Storer that made the score 38-14.
Washington finished with 183 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns, including a 1-yarder to cap an 18-play, 79-yard drive that consumed most of the fourth quarter.
Tristan Lee and Brandan Nurse combined for 134 additional rushing yards as part of a Wylie East ground game that effectively mixed zone-read concepts with diverse personnel groupings.
“Things were going great in the first half. Then there were 21 unanswered points by Highland Park,” said first-year Wylie East coach Marcus Gold. “I was happy with how we responded in the fourth quarter and put one in the end zone.”
Meanwhile, Storer surpassed the 2,000-yard milestone in passing yardage. The junior finished the regular season with 2,119 yards and 24 touchdowns.
The Scots earned their sixth straight district championship and 12th in the past 13 years. Along the way, they ran the table in 7-5A for the second consecutive season.