It seemed like more of a formality than anything else, but Highland Park clinched its first Class 6A playoff berth with a 55-10 win over Richardson Berkner on Friday.
The accomplishment didn’t come with much suspense, as the Scots rallied from an early deficit to repeat an act we’ve seen many times this season – a lopsided win over a District 10-6A opponent. Each of HP’s six league wins have been by margins of 20 or more points.
Brooks Burgin threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns, and ran for another score to lead an HP offense that scored 48 unanswered points to turn a close game into a rout.
The Scots (8-1, 5-1) still have next week’s regular-season finale to play, which will be at home against Richardson, but they can start planning ahead. In all likelihood, HP will finish second in the 10-6A standings behind Mesquite Horn, and will take the district’s top seed in the Division II bracket based on enrollment. That could change if Berkner upsets Richardson Pearce next week, since the Mustangs lead a five-team logjam for the final two postseason spots in the district but could still get edged out.
If Pearce wins, HP likely would play Irving Nimitz in the bi-district round, after the Vikings knocked off W.T. White 32-14 on Friday to secure the final spot from District 9-6A. If Pearce loses to the Rams, then Horn could slide to the Division II bracket and bump the Scots to the second seed, meaning they would probably face Jesuit instead.
We’ll have a more detailed analysis of that scenario later. But on Friday, HP continued building momentum for a playoff run by racking up 592 yards of total offense.
“Our focus is on getting better. We see areas that we have to improve in, knowing the type of competition we’re going to face in the playoffs,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “We’ve got to improve each week.”
Stephen Dieb finished with a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown, and had a 45-yard punt return early in the second-quarter that set up the go-ahead scoring pass from Burgin to Sam Welfelt. It was the first of two touchdown catches for Welfelt in the game.
Kevin Ken was the other offensive standout for the Scots with eight catches for 147 yards, including a 57-yard score in the first quarter. Campbell Brooks and Dillon Toole also caught touchdown passes as HP pulled away in the second half.
“I’m happy with what we’re doing. We moved the ball well and we played good defense,” Allen said. “We just weren’t as focused to start the game as I wanted us to be.”
The Rams (2-7, 0-6) took a 10-6 lead in the first quarter as HP committed turnovers on two of its first three possessions. Burgin’s first pass was intercepted by Berkner’s D’Ante Smith near midfield, and the Rams capitalized four plays later with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Davis Steelman to Terance Hargest.
Burgin found Ken on the 57-yard strike less than two minutes later, but Berkner took its best drive of the game to the HP 13-yard line on its next possession, resulting in a field goal.
After that, the Scots seized the momentum and never relinquished it. HP scored touchdowns on all four of its drives in the second quarter to take a commanding 34-10 lead at halftime.
Burgin’s accuracy fueled the surge, as he completed his next nine passes following the early interception. He surpassed the 300-yard passing mark in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, the HP defense shut down the Rams in the final three quarters. Berkner had just 36 total yards in the second half and did not cross midfield during that span. Steelman completed just 10 of 30 passes, and the Rams averaged less than two yards per rushing attempt.
Stephen Briggs intercepted a pass near midfield on Berkner’s opening drive of the second half, setting up a 2-yard scoring pass from Burgin to Brooks on a fourth-down play.