MESQUITE — In case there was any doubt, District 10-6A will not be a cakewalk for Highland Park.
That much was proven on Friday, but so was the resiliency of the Scots during a 29-9 victory over North Mesquite at Hanby Stadium in the program’s long-awaited debut in the new 6A classification.
HP rallied from an early 9-0 deficit with 29 unanswered points, and seemed to get stronger as the game progressed on both sides of scrimmage.
On a night when the HP passing game was inconsistent, Stephen Dieb provided the offensive spark for the Scots with a career-high 139 yards rushing and a late touchdown that helped to seal the victory.
“Our running game got going in the second half,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “When you’re not on throwing the football, it makes it hard to keep a drive going. Sometimes I’m not patient enough with our running game, but tonight we stuck with it, and it paid off.”
Whatever the reason, the Scots (4-0, 1-0) struggled out of the gate on offense in their first road game of the season, which also came after a bye week. North Mesquite was able to put pressure on HP quarterback Brooks Burgin, and the Scots had just two yards on its first two possessions combined. HP didn’t earn a first down until midway through the second quarter.
“North Mesquite did a great job of taking away some of the things that we do well,” Allen said. “We were a little stale coming out of the open date.”
Burgin found Andrew Frost for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 2:14 left before halftime, but the Scots still trailed 9-7 at the break in their lowest-scoring half of the season by far.
HP committed three turnovers, including two first-half interceptions, but the Stallions (2-2, 0-1) generally failed to capitalize.
Meanwhile, the Scots forced just one North Mesquite miscue, but it provided a key momentum swing. Carter McDade intercepted a pass in HP territory early in the third quarter, and Burgin — who completed just 12 of 27 passes in the game — found Kevin Ken for the go-ahead scoring pass three plays later. Ken also caught the two-point conversion pass.
HP never relinquished the advantage, as North Mesquite gained just 11 yards of total offense in the third quarter.
The Scots took a 22-9 lead on their opening possession of the fourth quarter, when Burgin connected with Frost, who made a diving catch in the end zone for a 32-yard score. It was the second touchdown of the game for Frost, who finished with a game-high 89 receiving yards.
The HP defense gradually reeled in the more athletic Stallions, who were led by dual-threat quarterback Ja’Quez Gooch. The sophomore had a team-high 76 rushing yards, with much of that coming while scrambling out of the pocket.
“I’m really pleased with how we played in the second half,” Allen said. “We know we’ve got to play better, but it’s just good to get this first win.”
HP will look to continue its momentum next week, when it returns home to face Richardson Pearce. The Mustangs were upset by rival Richardson in their district opener on Friday.