Highland Park will make its 29th consecutive playoff appearance beginning Saturday, when the Scots face Mount Pleasant in a Class 5A Region II bi-district game in Frisco.
While they’re familiar with the postseason spotlight, this year is a bit unusual since the Scots dropped their regular-season finale against Wylie East.
Should that lackluster performance be cause for concern? Or was it just the wakeup call HP needed to refocus for a potentially lengthy playoff run? The answer might be revealed at 1 p.m. Saturday when the Scots make their first visit to The Star, the Dallas Cowboys practice facility that opened earlier this year.
There’s plenty of reason for optimism. After all, HP still posted eight wins against a rigid schedule and earned a share of the District 15-5A title. When taken in that context, the 20-9 loss to the Pirates seems more like an anomaly.
The Scots (8-2) are the top 15-5A seed in the Class 5A Division I bracket, and it seems like a favorable draw on paper. The other top teams in Region II include Mansfield, Prosper, and Texarkana Texas High, but HP wouldn’t face any of them until the regional final.
However, the Scots need an offensive boost to make it that far. They managed just 220 total yards against Wylie East and suffered several miscues, including blocked punts, untimely penalties, and dropped passes.
Still, the season as a whole tells a different story. John Stephen Jones has had an excellent debut season at quarterback, throwing for more than 2,100 yards with 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The rushing game has been strong in the second half of the year, with Jack Kozmetsky and Jacob Urbanczyk combining for 16 scores. And the receiver corps led by Cade Saustad and Scully Jenevein is typically deep and talented.
The Tigers (3-7) lost seven of their first eight games, but finished with consecutive victories over Sulphur Springs and Greenville to tie for third place in District 16-5A. It’s the first postseason appearance since 2012 for Mount Pleasant, which was a combined 2-18 in the past two years.
The Tigers feature a potent rushing attack, with Dorian Glinton and J.K. Lee leading the backfield corps. And they’ve improved since losing their season opener 50-21 against North Forney, a team that the Scots pounded 66-7 a few weeks later.
The winner of Saturday’s game will face either McKinney North or postseason newcomer Frisco Independence in the area round.