ALLEN – At first glance, Highland Park looked like it was already in midseason form during the first half of Saturday’s season opener in the Tom Landry Classic.
By the end, the Scots had to hold off a furious rally by Frisco Centennial for a 28-26 win that prompted a sigh of relief.
The primary reason was speedy Centennial tailback Anthony Pegues, who was the workhorse for the Titans with 306 rushing yards and three touchdowns. His third score came on his 38th carry of the game – a 1-yard plunge with 17 seconds left that cut the HP lead to 28-26. However, a pass on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt sailed out of bounds, preserving the win for the Scots.
“I’m happy with the win, and I’m proud of our players for how hard they played,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “They came up with a play when they had to make one at the end.”
The HP offense rolled in the first half behind new quarterback Henry Allen – who completed 26 of 33 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns in his first varsity start – and tailback Stephen Dieb, who accounted for three touchdowns.
“I thought Henry had an outstanding game,” Randy Allen said. “He made some big plays, and turned some bad plays into good plays.”
The first HP drive of the season lasted just over a minute, and was capped with a 29-yard scoring pass from Allen to Parker Alexander. Pegues and Dieb twice traded rushing touchdowns before the Scots took control after their fourth straight touchdown drive to end the half.
Allen found Dieb on the 31-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the half to put the Scots ahead 28-13. HP converted all three of its third downs before halftime and racked up 310 yards of total offense.
“I was real pleased with the first half, but we just couldn’t get it going in the second half,” Randy Allen said. “We need to find a way to get better in the second half.”
Indeed, the final two quarters were a different story, as HP saw its three possessions end with two punts and a missed field goal. Meanwhile, the Titans controlled field position and the clock, and kept feeding Pegues.
He gained 201 yards after halftime, including a 63-yard scamper in the opening minute of the fourth quarter that made the score 28-20.
The next Centennial drive was its most impressive of the night, covering 75 yards in 16 plays, although finding the end zone was a bit of an adventure.
After the Titans converted on fourth down on a short run by Pegues at the HP 20-yard line, the Scots defense came up big. William Neely sacked Centennial quarterback Court Walker on consecutive plays, and an incompletion made it fourth-and-28.
That’s when a pass interference call on the Scots gave Centennial new life, and the Titans relied on Pegues five straight times to get into the end zone, giving them a late chance to tie the score.
The miscue was symptomatic of a game in which HP committed a whopping 14 penalties for 116 yards, and was even whistled for an illegal-motion call while in the victory formation.
Still, while it wasn’t as smooth as last season’s 47-0 win over Centennial, there were plenty of highlights and standout individual performances for the Scots. Dieb finished with 95 yards rushing, and Cy McCullough caught a game-high eight passes for 103 yards.
Next up, HP will have a short week to prepare for its home opener against Pulaski Academy, the quirky private-school powerhouse that won the Class 5A state title in Arkansas last season.