Upperclassmen: Scots Ready for Jump to 6A

Only hours after their 2021 season ended prematurely with a heartbreaking playoff loss, Highland Park players and coaches met to set goals, not knowing yet that they would not get to avenge their earliest postseason exit in almost a decade.

Instead, a new challenge will greet HP this fall. The perennial powerhouse program returns to the Class 6A level for the first time since 2015.

During a spirited offseason, anticipation has combined with lingering disappointment for returnees eager to atone for their 29-28 defeat against Frisco Wakeland in the Class 5A Division I playoffs area round.

“We don’t want to have that same feeling again,” senior receiver Luke Herring said. “We have to come in with the same intensity in every game.”

That’s especially true given HP’s more daunting schedule this season, including a rare nine-team district to determine four playoff spots.

“We’ll need to be playing our best football right at the beginning of the season,” HP head coach Randy Allen said.

The front-loaded schedule dictates a sense of urgency with just two non-district games before the District 7-6A opener against Lake Highlands on Sept. 9. 

Never has HP been aligned in such a large league nor began district play so early.

Plus, while only four of HP’s foes had winning records last season, the Scots will face all of them in their first five games.

“We’ve seen that competition,” senior running back Jay Cox said. “We’ve played 6A teams, and we’ve always done well against them.”

Indeed, the Scots are 9-1 against 6A competition the past four years, with each of those games coming in the first few weeks of the season.

The last time HP was in 6A — a two-year stretch in 2014 and 2015 — the Scots went 13-1 in district play and lost in the second round of the playoffs to Waco Midway both times.

“There are no weeks off,” senior cornerback Adam Rourke said.

The Scots are the only newcomer to a district that otherwise remains intact from a year ago when Jesuit Dallas was the unbeaten champion. The other opponents come from Irving ISD and Richardson ISD.

“It’s exciting that we’re playing new people, but we don’t know much about them,” Allen said. 

The bigger challenge likely will come in postseason play, especially in 6A Division II Region I, where the bracket could feature Denton Guyer, Southlake Carroll, and Flower Mound Marcus, the opponent for the Scots’ regular-season opener on Aug. 26.

Whereas HP has been among the largest 5A schools in the state in terms of enrollment in recent years, now it is among the smallest 6A programs.

But don’t label the Scots as an underdog. They have the roster size to match any 6A school annually, and their expectations are as high as ever, including a league crown. HP is the all-time state leader in victories (864), playoff appearances (63), and district titles (56).

“We prepare the same way no matter what,” Allen said.

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