Could Highland Park have won the Class 5A state championship in Arkansas last season?
That’s a hypothetical scenario, of course, but one worth considering with Pulaski Academy, the private-school powerhouse from Little Rock, coming to Highlander Stadium for the Scots’ home opener tonight.
After all, HP rallied for a 48-42 win over Pulaski during the same week last season. The Bruins haven’t lost a game since, as they rolled off 13 straight wins and earned a state title.
None of Pulaski’s opponents last season scored as many points against them as the Scots, and the only time the Bruins managed fewer than 42 points of their own came in the championship game.
So what does all of this mean for the rematch? For HP, the game will again present the biggest test prior to the start of District 10-6A play later this month. And it will show how much the Scots have improved following a narrow 28-26 win over Frisco Centennial in their season opener last week.
You might remember Pulaski for its strategic trickery and its quirky offensive philosophy, which involves a lightning-fast pace, no punting, and frequent onside kicks. Whether you think coach Kevin Kelley’s style of play is innovative or reckless, it certainly is fun to watch.
The Bruins will have a new quarterback this season, as sophomore Layne Hatcher will run the high-powered offense, but a handful of their playmakers return, including versatile receivers Tre Bruce and Cannon Smith, and diminutive running back Jaren Watkins.
In last year’s game, the Scots trailed 28-14 in the second quarter before scoring 34 straight points, then holding off a late Pulaski comeback. HP used a ball-control approach that included three touchdowns by Stephen Dieb and yielded a modest 183 passing yards.
This season, the Scots have a lineup of new faces that started fast against the Titans before struggling after halftime. Still, new quarterback Henry Allen was efficient with 320 passing yards and two touchdowns. One of those was to Dieb, who also rushed for two scores.