Highland Park vs Prosper Eagles
7:30pm Kickoff, Friday, September 12, 2014
Their quarterback wears number 90. What’s up with that? Is he a converted nose guard?
Prosper’s QB, Colton Hepp, has a name as cool as his number. In his first two games he has completed 31 of 45 passes (69 percent) for 395 yards and four touchdowns. His key receiver, Zack (with a “k”) English, has caught 13 passes for 215 yards and three scores.
But the guy to keep an eye on is running back Robert Mahone, who in the first two games has run back a kickoff 90 yards and has a 95-yard run from scrimmage. Both for touchdowns, obviously.
The Eagles fly into Highlander Stadium for the first time ever. Years ago, Prosper was a dot on the road north of Dallas and now it’s got a school with 1,600 students, impressive facilities and a strong tradition of winning over the years. The Eagles are learning the hard way that 5A is a far cry from 2A and 3A, where they used to mop up (much like Forney did). They were 3-7 last year and are not projected to do much better this season.
But two years ago they were flying high. Led by high-profile quarterback Davis Webb, who is now starting at Texas Tech, Prosper was 10-3 in 2012 and went three games deep into the playoffs. Webb’s top receiver was Torii Hunter, Jr., who caught 71 of Webb’s passes for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 17.4 yards per reception. He now plays for Notre Dame.
The Scots are coming off an important win over Pulaski Academy of Little Rock, Arkansas, which had won 125 of its previous 144 games, and averaged 50 points per game going into Friday night’s fight.
It didn’t take long for the Scots to realize that these guys were for real. The Scots looked up and found themselves losing 28-14 and couldn’t stop Pulaksi’s offense. Stephen Dieb scored to tighten the score to 28-21 when linebacker Mitchell Kaufman made the play of the game, snatching a Pulaksi pass out of the air and running it back 33 yards to tie the score. The huge momentum shift continued, the HPdefense stuffed the Pulaski offense and the Scots scored 34 unanswered points to defeat the Bruins 48-42.
A few HPtouchdowns came about due to great field position that was the result of recovering onside kicks and stopping fourth down plays deep in HP territory. Maybe it makes sense to punt every once in a while.
“I think it is important that we didn’t play our best game and still beat a good team,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “It was an exciting game and our guys found a way to win.”
It was a good team win. But Kaufman, who is also a Scots basketball standout, gets the assist.
Pulaksi goes to Florida to play a game this weekend. The Bruins may be discombobulated because they’re not used to coming off a loss. But the Bruins and the Scots both benefited from last Friday’s game.
They will play again in Dallas next year. Pulaksi already has it circled. They want another shot at the Scots’ home winning streak, now sitting at an incredible 80 games.
Highland Park vs Pulaski Academy of Little Rock, Arkansas
7:30pm Kickoff, Friday, September 5, 2014
Well, this is going to be interesting. The mad genius of football, Kevin Kelley, is bringing his Pulaski Academy Bruins from Little Rock, Arkansas, to show North Texas how different high school football can be.
Kelley is the most unorthodox football coach in America. He makes the mad pirate of Washington State, Mike Leach, look as boring as an old SEC offense. If he weren’t so successful, people might think he’s crazy. But he is successful – winning 125 of 144 games the past 11 years – and still some think he’s off his rocker.
Why? Because he approaches football from a whole different perspective. He doesn’t think like the conventional coach. He questions everything and has the moxie to act on it. The result is the most unconventional football team in America at any level. You can’t call them weird because they win 87 percent of their games.
Pulaksi never punts. Kelley thinks that punting is offensive failure. They go for it on all fourth downs and get a first down 50 percent of the time. Professor Kelley likes the percentages. He knows that the odds of a team getting the ball inside the Pulaski 10-yard line will score 92 percent of the time. He knows that punting out to the 30- or 40-yard line gives his opponent a 77 percent change of scoring. He’ll take that 15 percent difference because his team will get a first down on 50 percent of its fourth-down attempts. Half the time he keeps the ball and the other team doesn’t have it so it doesn’t matter what yard line they would have been on.
Every Pulaksi kickoff is an onside kick. They have 12 different onside kick formations and they’ve become very good at using it as a key offensive weapon. Against one rival they ran up a 29-0 score before the other team ever touched the ball. You will never see a better team at onside kicks.
Opponents recovering an onside kick will be an average of 14 yards ahead of where they would have been (on average) after a regular kickoff return, so we can begin to understand the logic behind the madness.
On defense, Pulaski blitzes 80 percent of the time. On punt returns, they have nobody deep … and they don’t try to block the kick. On offense they average 520 yards per game. Next week they play against a high school team in Florida. None of this is conventional, folks.
The Scots coaches have not been able to scout the Bruins. The HP game is their first game of the season. The HP coaches have film from last year but most of those players have graduated.
I don’t think that Pulaski never punting is going to throw off the Scots defense but I do think that the Bruins onside kicks can be damaging because of their expertise at it. The best way to negate that possibility is to keep them from scoring in the first place.
Keep a team averaging 50 points a game from scoring? Yes, if the Scots defense can keep them out of the end zone each quarter, then the percentage chance of Pulaski scoring becomes zero.
Highland Park vs Frisco Centennial
7pm Kickoff, Saturday, August 30, 2014
The 2014 edition of Highland Park football storms into the Ford Stadium spotlight Saturday evening in a Tom Landry Classic battle with the strong Frisco Centennial Titans.
While the world is clammering about Highland Park moving up to the large 6A classification, the Scots will have their hands full with the local powerhouse from the lower 5A level.
“Centennial has emerged as the best team in its district,” said HPhead coach Randy Allen. “The Frisco teams are good and Centennial has averaged 11 wins a season over the past three years.”
The Scots last tangled with the Titans in the 2010 playoffs, with HP dominating, 49-7. In that game Jake Howeth completed seven of nine passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran for 146 yards and two more scores. But it was also a preview of HP’s next big quarterback. Brady Burgin stepped in the spotlight, completing 12 of 12 passes for 180 yards.
Brady’s younger brother, Brooks, returns as the Scots starting quarterback and reigning district MVP. Last season he led his team to the state semifinals as he passed for 3,500 yards and 31 touchdowns and ran for 725 yards and 19 more TDs. Then, as now, he has been operating behind a big, talented offensive line.
The Titans boast some serious D-1 talent. Offensive tackle Trace Ellison, who is 6’5”, 280 lbs., has committed to play for Texas Tech where he may someday protect its potential Heisman quarterback, Davis Webb. The King brothers, Jack and Sam, are two other offensive linemen who are both 6’5” and 300 lbs. The Titan center is another returning starter, as are three wide receivers. Devin McCord, with 4.5 speed, is the one to watch for going deep.
Centennial returns only three starters on defense but one of them is an aggressive linebacker named Brandon Anderson, who has 4.4 speed and can be found making tackles all over the SMUcampus. Watch for him playing some offense against the Scots.
HPcoach Randy Allen enters the game as the 6th winningest coach in Texas high school football history. The irony is that his opposing coach, Mark Howard, got his start in coaching as an assistant at Brownwood, where he was hired by its young head coach, Randy Allen.
“Mark Howard is a very steady professional,” said Allen of his former assistant. “He has his life in perspective.”
Howard remembers Brady Burgin completing 12 of 12 passes against his playoff team in 2010. He just hopes that little brother Brooks doesn’t have a perfect game this Saturday night.
But he knows it’s possible. He’s got good perspective.