One theory when Highland Park jumped to Class 6A before this season was that the Scots — after many years as a 4A powerhouse — would be able to navigate the regular season just fine, but might have a harder time in the playoffs.
The second part of that hypothesis will be tested tonight, when HP meets undefeated Waco Midway in the Division II Region II area round. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at MISD Multi-Purpose Stadium in Midlothian.
The Panthers (11-0) should be a clear step up from the opponents the Scots (10-1) are accustomed to facing in the second round, a group that in recent years has included Dallas ISD neighbors Kimball, Hillcrest, Woodrow Wilson, and South Oak Cliff. HP beat them all in lopsided fashion.
Perhaps HP will benefit from being tested during the first half its bi-district victory last week against Irving Nimitz. The Scots led by four points at halftime before pulling away for a 49-17 victory.
Brooks Burgin continued his late-season surge by passing for 257 yards and four touchdowns, including two for Kevin Ken. And the HP defense shut down the Vikings after halftime, while scoring a pivotal touchdown on an interception return by Mitchell Kaufman.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have made a successful transition to the state’s largest classification since eliminating the Scots 41-36 in the 4A regional quarterfinals in 2008. HP certainly can make a statement tonight that they’re up to a similar task, and on a more accelerated schedule.
Slowing down the Midway offense will be a challenge, even for an HP defense that has posted four shutouts this season. The fast-paced Panthers crushed Tyler Lee 76-47 in their playoff opener after leading 62-14 at halftime. They scored nine first-half touchdowns.
Midway has surpassed the 40-point barrier in each of its past nine games behind the playmaking trio of Ben Hicks (who is committed to Houston), Devontre Stricklin (who is committed to Baylor), and Eric Clayburn.