MIDLOTHIAN – Waco Midway is a former Class 4A powerhouse that in recent years has transferred that dominance to the state’s largest classification. That’s the same path that Highland Park hopes to follow.
On Friday, however, the undefeated Panthers used advantages in size and speed to hold off a late HP rally and eliminate the Scots from the playoffs, 35-28, in a Division II Region II area-round showdown.
Midway scored 28 consecutive points to seize the momentum and the Scots (10-2) couldn’t keep pace. Yet their first 6A season still qualifies as an overall success, with HP barely losing a step against the improved competition.
“We had a great year and I’m very proud of our senior class,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “They did a tremendous job of leading us into 6A. We had a tremendous football team and got beat by a good football team.”
On Friday, the Scots started fast with 254 total yards and 21 points in the first quarter alone. But the final three quarters produced just 145 yards and seven points.
After trailing at halftime, the Panthers (12-0) grabbed control with three straight terrific possessions starting midway through the third quarter. The Panthers tied the score at 21 following a 43-yard scoring pass from Ben Hicks to Devontre Stricklin that capped a 98-yard drive. Eric Clayburn ran for 60 yards on seven straight carries.
Following a three-and-out for HP, Midway drove 87 yards, executing a fake punt on fourth-and-9 near midfield to keep the series alive. Two plays later, Clayburn scored from 11 yards out to give the Panthers their first lead at 28-21.
On its next possession, Midway drove 80 yards in 19 plays, culminating in a 1-yard scoring plunge by Clayburn to make the score 35-21.
Clayburn finished with 203 yards on 39 carries with four touchdowns, while Stricklin tallied 146 receiving yards on nine catches. Hicks completed 25 of 44 throws for 311 yards.
The Midway offense simply wore down a fatigued HP defense by running 106 plays from scrimmage, which accumulated 600 total yards and 35 first downs. They dominated time of possession after halftime. After all, 62 of the snaps were rushing plays.
“Their running game wound up being the difference,” Allen said. “They kept the ball and made some critical first downs on us. We had to go for it on fourth down because we didn’t think we could stop them.”
The Scots remained within striking distance in the fourth quarter after Brooks Burgin connected with Kevin Ken on an 18-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-down play with 6:11 remaining. But HP never threatened again.
The Scots dictated the pace in the first quarter, with Burgin scoring on a 56-yard run on the fourth play from scrimmage. The Panthers answered with a 7-yard touchdown run by Clayburn.
On its second drive, HP reached the end zone again when Burgin found Sam Welfelt in the corner of the end zone from 9 yards out.
Midway muffed the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by HP’s Stephen Briggs, but the Scots couldn’t capitalize when a trick play resulted in a fourth-down interception by Midway’s Logan Paschal.
Still, HP mounted a 94-yard drive later in the first quarter that included a 54-yard pass from Burgin to Stephen Dieb. Burgin then found Campbell Brooks for a 16-yard score to increase the advantage to 21-7.
The Scots controlled field position for much of the night by taking advantage of the wet and windy conditions. However, the HP offense began to sputter in the second quarter, as the Scots completed just one of 11 passes and gained only 33 yards in that frame.
Burgin completed 22 of 46 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. The two-year starter also led the Scots in rushing with 85 yards on seven attempts in his final game. Ken finished with a team-high seven receptions for 63 yards.