Friday, October 3, 2014; 7:30pm Kickoff at Highlander Stadium
As the J.J. Pearce Mustangs ride into town for its first 6A battle with the Highland Park Scots, the red, white and blue ponies are glad to see a familiar face in the UIL big boys club. The Scots are also glad to reunite with their former district rivals. The two schools, with similar student bodies, similar sports traditions and similar quest for excellence, are both glad they didn’t stumble into district 6-6A (like McKinney did two years ago). That district includes four of the largest 10 schools in the state: Allen (5,987 students), Plano (5,395), Plano West (5,531) and Plano East (5,300).
Highland Park (2,106) is the smallest 6A school and Pearce (2,177) is close. They are both happy to be in a district with nearby Richardson and Mesquite schools, with whom they have been district rivals – off and on – for decades.
While the Scots have dominated the Mustangs in football, Pearce fans can hang their hats on that one brief, shining moment when Pearce beat Highland Park in double overtime in 2001. What is incredible is that HP’s loss at Eagle-Mustang Stadium that year has been one of only two district losses since Randy Allen arrived at HP in 1999. (That’s an incredible feat. Maybe Allen, Plano, Plano West and Plano East are the ones thrilled that the Scots didn’t join their private club.)
The Scots are playing well. Quarterback Brooks Burgin is the polished, talented and experienced signal caller the coaches created in a QB lab in the basement of HPHS. His offensive line is experienced and strong. No team can concentrate on the Scots’ top wide receiver because there are half a dozen of them. The defense has pitched two shutouts and held a good North Mesquite offense to one touchdown. And that was without Mr. Pick 6 himself, Mitchell Kaufman, a defensive leader who has been sidelined with a back injury. Last week Michael Linehan led the team with 17 tackles (including nine solo).
The Scots are 4-0 going into this game while the Mustangs are struggling at 1-3. Pearce has a major threat in Hank Hughes, who is 6’2”, runs a 4.6 and can line up anywhere on the field and be dominant. He is set to start at quarterback so watch for number 11 making plays with his legs and his arm. Pearce also has one of the top wide receivers in the area, Jake Griffin, who has caught 22 passes for 261 yards. The likely scenario will be Hughes to Griffin passes. If Griffin is covered, look for Hughes to run.
The Scots do need to get out of bed before the second quarter. The slow starts could haunt this team tonight or next week against Horn.
I asked my voodoo friend what the final score will be Friday night and he just smiled and said, “Don’t let it go into overtime.”