This is the big one.
When Highland Park learned it was going to be in 6A, its coaches immediately circled October 10 as the biggest challenge. Mesquite Horn. With 11 starters returning from a 9-3 area finalist team, many predicted the Jaguars to be the team to beat, but Highland Park was the pre-season pick to win the district.
Sure enough, it looks like the district championship will be determined at Hanby Stadium on Friday.
This will indeed be the biggest challenge for the 5-0 Scots. The 4-1 Jaguars lost only to an undefeated Rockwall team but they have impressive wins over Duncanville and McKinney Boyd. The secret weapon Horn brings into the game is head coach Mike Overton who knows the Scots well from his days as the coach at West Mesquite. The fact that Horn is loaded with D1 talent is no surprise. One of the best offensive linemen in the state, Connor Dyer, will be playing for Texas Tech next year. Two wide receivers – Emmanuel Ogwo and Jarrison Stewart – have committed to play for Iowa and TCU. And neither one is the leading receiver on the team. Kakpa Mansaray has caught 22 passes for 308 yards to lead the team.
Statistically, these two teams match up. Horn QB Chris Robison has completed 76 of 136 passes for 1,339 yards and 14 touchdowns. HP’s Brady Burgin has completed 80 of 126 passes for 1,223 yards and 12 touchdowns. Horn is averaging 910 yards on the ground compared to HP’s 840. While the Scots are scoring 46.8 yards per game (compared to the Jaguars’ 33.2), I think the game will be determined by the Highland Park defense. While The Dallas Morning News picks Horn to win, 28-24, I think the Scots defense will hold the Jags to under 24 and I think Burgin’s balanced offense will score more than 30.
When the Scots start slow, they have adjusted at halftime and won the second half. That may happen again this Friday, but if the hole is too big, even a big second half won’t help. This is the first team HP will play that is loaded with college players. Like many teams the Scots face, these Jaguars are foaming at the mouth to snap the Scots’ 36-game district winning streak. Their extra step of quickness will challenge the Scots’ air game.
But there is something about rising to the occasion that makes Highland Park football unique. They have the bitter taste in their mouths of being picked to lose the game. The individuals on the team will reach deep inside and find a gear they didn’t know they had … but they know they’ll need it against a talented team like this.
Horn has D1 talent. Scots got pride.
That will be the difference.