For Highland Park, tonight’s regular-season finale at Richardson is nothing more than a postseason tune-up.
Sure, there are some milestones that are there for the taking, such as the first outright district title at the Class 6A level and a 17th consecutive season with no more than one regular-season defeat.
But win or lose, the Scots (8-1, 6-0) already have their postseason fate determined. They will be the top Division II seed from District 10-6A in the Region II bracket, and will host Irving Nimitz in the bi-district round next week.
So an ideal scenario for HP against the Eagles, who are already eliminated from playoff contention, likely would include a solid first half that would allow the starters to exit after halftime.
The game also represents a chance for the Scots’ passing game to get out of a recent funk. During the past two games combined, HP has completed just 16 of 40 passes for 210 yards. The Scots have been held to less than 200 yards passing in four of six district games.
Of course, the rushing game has more than compensated behind Stephen Dieb, who needs just 55 yards against Richardson to surpass the 1,000-yard barrier for the season. He also has 14 touchdowns (plus one receiving), while Henry Allen and Jack Kozmetsky have combined for 13 scores on the ground. Dieb and Allen each scored twice during a 31-17 win over Richardson Berkner last week.
Then there’s the HP defense, which has improved throughout the season and has allowed 17 or fewer points in four straight games after yielding at least 26 points in each of its first five games.
The Eagles (1-8, 1-5) have dropped five straight games since a thrilling 54-50 win over rival Richardson Pearce in their district opener. Last week, Richardson fell 62-29 to Mesquite, allowing at least 50 points for the fourth time this season.
The top offensive threats for the Eagles include dual-threat quarterback Michael Johnson, versatile running back Armando Washington, and receiver Kahlil Lacy, who has caught seven of Johnson’s 14 touchdown passes this season.