If all streaks are made to be broken, then it was inevitable that Highland Park would lose another home game at some point.
Pulaski Academy, a private-school powerhouse from Little Rock, Ark., did the job in convincing fashion on Friday, beating the Scots 40-13 at Highlander Stadium to end HP’s 84-game home winning streak that dated to 1998.
To put that in perspective, some of the players on the current HP roster hadn’t witnessed a Highlander Stadium loss in their lifetime. It was also the first home loss for Scots head coach Randy Allen, who is in his 17th season at the school and has seen HP pull some upsets and unleash some stunning comebacks to keep the streak alive.
But there was no such luck on Friday, thanks to a Pulaski squad that established a 27-0 lead during a dominant first half, and withstood a mild HP rally in the third quarter.
“It shows you how fortunate we’ve been for 17 years. At some point, you’re going to be flat or the breaks are going to go against you, or you’re going to meet a good football team. There’s so many variables that go into it,” Allen said. “The fact that we were able to keep this thing going for that long, that’s enough said. We’ll just start over again.”
The statistics before halftime were just as lopsided as the score, with the Bruins (1-0) holding a 382-15 edge in total yards. HP completed just two passes in the first half compared to 20 for Pulaski, and the Scots ran just 15 plays while the Bruins marched down the field on all four of their possessions.
Pulaski, of course, is known for its quirky offensive strategy that includes almost no punting, consistent onside kicks, and an abundance of trick plays. And the Bruins maintained a blistering pace that kept HP on its heels.
Layne Hatcher threw four touchdown passes in the first half, including two each to Tre Bruce and Justin Charette. They capped drives of 95, 99, 79, and 88 yards and obliterated the Scots on the line of scrimmage.
“They completely dominated the first half,” Allen said. “They executed like they were in midseason form. They’re tough to get ready for because you don’t see anything like them.”
The Scots (1-1) shifted the momentum in the third quarter with consecutive scoring drives. HP finally capitalized on its favorable field position — the result of recovering onside kicks — and drove 53 yards on its first possession of the second half. Henry Allen found the end zone on a 2-yard plunge.
After stopping Pulaski on downs, the Scots marched 65 yards and scored on a 9-yard pass from Henry Allen to Kemp Sauer, trimming the deficit to 27-13.
It brought back memories of last season’s matchup with Pulaski, when the Scots rallied from 14 points down in the second quarter with 34 straight points, then held on for a 48-42 win.
However, this time HP didn’t get any closer, despite forcing a rare Pulaski punt on fourth-and-30 from its own 16-yard line. The Scots went three-and-out, and then snapped the ball over the punter’s head for a 38-yard loss.
On the next play, Bruce rushed for a 13-yard touchdown, and the Bruins cushioned their lead. After the first of two interceptions in the fourth quarter, Pulaski put the game out of reach with a 5-yard scoring run by Jaren Watkins.
“We came back after halftime, and I was so proud of the way we fought back,” Randy Allen said. “It was 27-13 and we had plenty of time left, but we couldn’t move the ball on the next two possessions. Then we had the bad snap on the punt, and that seemed to take all the fire out of us.”
Last season, the Bruins rolled off 13 straight wins after losing to HP and won the Class 5A state title in Arkansas. So the rematch held significance for Pulaski’s returning players and coaches.
“A lot of good teams have come through here and not come out with a victory,” said Pulaski head coach Kevin Kelley. “We wanted to measure ourselves. It means a little more to win down here. Our guys played really well.”
Bruce finished with 11 catches for 100 yards, rushed for 52 yards, and completed three of six passes for 22 yards. The elusive Watkins finished with 199 rushing yards. As a team, the Bruins had 514 yards of offense, although only 132 of those came in the second half.
How effective was Pulaski’s trickery? The Bruins converted four of six fourth-down attempts, including three straight in the first half. They punted once, on fourth-and-30 from their own 16 on the opening play of the fourth quarter. And they didn’t recover any of their five onside kicks.
HP’s numbers were modest, with Stephen Dieb rushing for a team-high 33 yards on 12 carries, and Chris Buell catching three passes for 45 yards. Henry Allen completed 14 of 27 throws for 120 yards.
Now the Scots turn their attention to their final nondistrict game against Prosper, which will kick off at 11 a.m. on Sept. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.