Remarkably, in nine out of 16 games last year, the Highland Park defense allowed seven or fewer points.
Four of those performances came in the playoffs, including a 16-7 victory over Temple in the Class 5A Division II state title game.
“If it wasn’t for our defense, we wouldn’t have won state,” said offensive tackle Thomas Shelmire. “There were always times when they stepped up for us.”
Just two starters — safeties Zak Folts and James Herring — are back from that squad, which made its mark with tackling precision and an ability to contain big plays. But there are plenty of familiar faces beside them, giving the Scots optimism about a possible repeat performance.
“We’ve got guys who got quality playing time,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “We’ll continue to rotate some guys. We feel good about our depth chart.”
HP graduated its entire starting front seven in its 3-4 alignment. However, incoming seniors such as nose tackle Elliott Newsom and linebackers Marshall Ballard and Ryan Coxe all received significant snaps in addition to six weeks’ worth of postseason practices.
The Scots will be slightly undersized up front. Luke Lochausen and sophomore Prince Dorbah are expected to start at the two defensive end spots, while Cole Bohner and Noble Nash slide in at linebacker.
In the secondary, Grayson Serio and Hudson Clark are the probable new cornerbacks, but as with other spots, HP will rotate plenty of players into the mix.
“We have a lot of young talent,” Herring said. “We know what it takes.”