MESQUITE — Highland Park hadn’t lost a district game in more than six years before Friday. It’s possible they hadn’t met an opponent as stout as Mesquite Horn during that stretch.
The Jaguars used their speed on both sides of the ball to keep the Scots off balance in a 42-27 win at Hanby Stadium that ended HP’s 36-game district winning streak and put Horn in the driver’s seat in the District 10-6A standings.
While Horn receiver Jarrison Stewart was seeing an open field ahead of him for much of the night, HP quarterback Brooks Burgin found himself staring into a wall of defenders.
Stewart, who has verbally committed to TCU, responded with four touchdowns for Horn, including an early punt return that swung the momentum.
Meanwhile, with Burgin consistently being pressured and knocked down, the Scots (5-1, 2-1) committed an uncharacteristic four turnovers that contributed to favorable field position for the Jaguars (5-1, 3-0) for much of the game.
“We had a hard time blocking them. Brooks had to scramble and throw the ball away numerous times,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “They kept changing up their coverages and they kept us guessing. We just could never get anything consistently going.”
Things started favorably for HP with a 98-yard drive on the opening possession, one that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Burgin.
However, the Jaguars responded with three touchdowns — including two by Stewart — in a three-minute span later in the first quarter.
Stewart’s 67-yard punt return tied the score, and the Scots lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Five plays later, Stewart found the end zone again on a 20-yard pass from Chris Robison.
Horn turned up the pressure on Burgin on HP’s next possession, which led to an interception by C.J. Stallings. The Jaguars needed just two more plays to make the score 21-7 on a 19-yard run by Jordan Shavers, who finished with 100 yards rushing for the game.
After that, the Scots kept the game close but could never pull even. Matthew Barge trimmed the margin to 21-14 with a 7-yard scoring run early in the second quarter, but Horn responded when Robison found Stewart from 34 yards out on third-and-long.
Horn helped itself with several key third-down conversions in the first half. The Jaguars converted four third downs with at least 7 yards to go, with two of those plays resulting in touchdowns.
Horn threatened to pull away in the third quarter. An early fumble by the Scots led to a missed field goal, but Stewart caught his third touchdown pass from Robison moments later to make the score 35-14.
HP made its biggest play of the game on the next possession, gambling on fourth-and-2 from its own 43-yard line. Burgin hit Sam Welfelt for a 57-yard score down the right sideline.
That play seemed to spark the Scots, who stopped the Jaguars on downs deep inside Horn territory. Barge plunged into the end zone from 2 yards out to cut the deficit to 35-27, following a blocked extra point.
HP had its chances in the fourth quarter, but Karlos Arthur intercepted a pass near midfield in the closing minutes, setting up a game-clinching 27-yard touchdown run by Dalen Morgan, a 290-pound converted defensive lineman.
“They’re the best team that we’ve played this year,” Allen said of Horn. “We needed to see a team with this kind of talent. We’ll find some areas that we need to improve and we’ll be better from this game in the playoffs.”
The Horn defense held the Scots in check after halftime. After a solid start, Burgin was forced to hurry several throws and was sacked five times, which contributed to the Scots finishing with just 43 rushing yards. Andrew Frost led HP in receiving with seven catches for 110 yards.
Robison, a sophomore, completed just 16 of 33 passes, but had three touchdowns, and perhaps more importantly, no turnovers.
Following its first loss at the Class 6A level, the Scots dropped into a three-way tie for second place in the district with four games remaining, including a matchup at home against Lake Highlands next week.