How did Highland Park get here? The short and obvious answer would be that the Scots won their first five playoff games.
But as anyone who’s reached a state championship game in Texas knows, getting that far requires a combination of skill, luck, and intangibles that has somehow eluded all but the fortunate few left standing at AT&T Stadium this weekend.
So how did the Scots get this far? This HP squad hasn’t been as dominant as the 2005 team that completed the only unblemished season in school history with a blowout win in the state title game.
Rather, this team has more of a reputation for depth and resilience that it will carry into Saturday’s matchup against Temple for the Class 5A Division I crown.
Historically, most HP teams might be known for their offensive prowess, but a punishing defense has carried the Scots (13-2) through some crucial moments this year.
Take Matt Gahm’s interception return for a touchdown during the second half of a win over Lovejoy. Or Luke Blanton’s fumble recovery to key a rally against Mesquite Poteet. Or George Stewart’s deflection of a potential game-tying pass in the final minutes of a postseason victory over Mansfield Legacy. There are other examples, too.
The defense has limited eight of 15 opponents this season to seven points or fewer. And it has allowed only 12.6 points per game in the playoffs.
The HP offense hasn’t been quite as consistent, but it’s shown some explosiveness, especially with a season-best 616 total yards against Poteet, which wound up sharing the District 15-5A title with HP and advancing to the 5A Division II state semifinals.
While they might not always be flashy, the Scots have limited their turnovers and penalties, and have gotten major contributions from the lower rungs on the depth chart. Reserves such as Paxton Alexander and J.T. Dooley have emerged during the playoffs, and the coaching staff has shown an ability to adjust its versatile attack to fit its personnel on a weekly basis.
Overall, it’s not bad for a squad that has missed various contributors on offense, and even their starting kicker, for portions of the season to injury. Getting here has been a true team effort.
Saturday’s game will be the seventh state championship appearance for HP. The Scots have three titles in the previous six tries. Here’s a look back:
|2007||Lake Travis||L, 36-34|
|1957||Port Arthur||W, 21-9|
|1947||SA Brackenridge||L, 22-13|
|1944||Port Arthur||L, 20-7|