Every time things got a little messy for the Highland Park offense on Friday, the defense functioned as a clean-up crew.
Despite committing five turnovers, the Scots were still able to roll past Tyler 42-14 at Highlander Stadium to claim sole possession of first place in District 7-5A Div. I.
While the Scots struggled through the air, their punishing ground game took control as HP extended its winning streak to seven games. The Scots (7-1, 4-0) can clinch at least a share of the district title next week with a victory at last-place West Mesquite.
Jay Cox scored three of HP’s six rushing touchdowns. He finished with 129 all-purpose yards, plus a 42-yard punt return that set up a score. Christian Reeves ran for 100 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns.
“We’ve got a good offensive line and good running backs,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “People are having to play us for the pass. It’s just a matter of being patient. In a two-back offense, we think we can move the ball, eat up clock, and make first downs, and that’s what we did a lot in the second half.”
Perhaps more importantly, the five HP miscues turned into zero points for the Lions (5-3, 3-1), as the HP defense worked overtime to hold Tyler’s elite playmakers in check.
“They’ve got the athletes to give people problems and score lots of points,” Allen said. “Our defense did a good job of adjusting after the first couple of touchdowns. We were getting good pressure up front and our secondary did a great job against the deep ball.”
After a 62-yard touchdown pass from Eli Holt to Montrell Wade cut the margin to 21-14 on the opening play of the second quarter, the Lions never scored again. They managed just 80 total yards after halftime.
Following that touchdown, Tyler quarterback Eli Holt was injured on a rushing attempt on the Lions’ next drive and did not return. Sophomore speedster Derrick McFall took his place, but the Tyler offense became one-dimensional. The Lions completed only 13 of 39 passes in the game.
In addition to his long touchdown reception, Wade intercepted two passes for the Lions. Zachaun Williams stopped an HP scoring opportunity by picking off a pass in the red zone in the first quarter.
The Scots needed only three plays to reach the end zone on their opening drive. A 51-yard pass from Brennan Storer to John Rutledge set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Cox.
The Lions answered with a 52-yard scoring scamper by McFall on their third play from scrimmage. However, a Reeves score moments later gave HP the lead for good at 14-7.
Tyler’s next possession ended with a Blake Beavans interception, followed by a long return into Tyler territory. Just four snaps later, Cox rumbled 39 yards for another touchdown.
Jacob Villela gave the Lions good field possession when he recovered a second-quarter fumble at the HP 29-yard line. But the Scots returned the favor when J.T. Withers picked off a fourth-down heave in the end zone for a touchback.
From there, the Scots drove 75 yards in nine plays, capped by Ben Croasdale’s scoring plunge that made the score 28-14 with 43 seconds left before halftime.
HP completed only seven passes in the game — none in the second half — and scored all six touchdowns on running plays.