HP Holds Off Jesuit in Defensive Battle

Highland Park didn’t need to score in the second half to beat Jesuit Dallas on Friday. The Scots merely played keep-away.

HP used a balanced running attack to control the clock, while its defense was able to limit Jesuit’s up-tempo offense during a 15-13 victory on Friday at SMU’s Ford Stadium.

Besides defeating its neighborhood rival and fellow playoff contender for a second consecutive season, the Scots (4-1, 2-1) earned a key win in their pursuit of a District 7-6A title. They will return home to host Richardson Berkner next week with a chance to move into a first-place tie.

“Our district has a lot of parity and some good teams,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “Every week you’ve got a tough game. This was a gut-check.”

Jesuit had multiple opportunities to rally in the second half but could only muster two Noah McGough field goals. The Rangers (3-3, 2-2) were stuck deep in their own territory in the closing minutes when a sack by HP’s Jack Morse ended the final threat.

Statistically, it was an ugly second half for the HP offense, with just four completed passes and two turnovers in the fourth quarter. But it worked in protecting a 15-7 halftime advantage.

After the Rangers trimmed the margin to 15-13 early in the fourth quarter, HP’s ensuing drive featured 17 plays and consumed more than eight minutes off the clock — with two conversions on third-and-long and another on fourth down — before ending with a Robert Prager interception in the end zone.

“We were controlling the ball and running the clock when we had to,” Allen said. “If you keep their offense off the field, they can’t hurt you.”

Meanwhile, Jesuit had the ball for less than two minutes in the final quarter and managed only 14 total yards, struggling to sustain drives in its comeback effort.

“I’m proud of the defense. They made some big plays for us,” Allen said. “We gave them field position but we came up with a pass breakup or a sack.”

Both defenses were in control early as the teams exchanged turnovers in the first quarter. A fumble recovery by Morse in HP territory was followed by a tipped interception by Jesuit’s Sean Watson near midfield.

Neither offense crossed the goal line until an 11-yard scramble by HP quarterback Warren Peck with 3:33 remaining before halftime, capping a drive highlighted by a 20-yard pass from Peck to Canon Spackman.

On the next snap for Jesuit, Charlie Peters connected with Dolen Hedrick on a 51-yard strike. Three plays later, Peters found Cade Gill on a short pass to tie the score.

The decisive drive in the game took just 68 seconds, beginning with a 50-yard pass from Peck to Bryce Laczkowski with a minute left in the first half. Wilson Axley later scored on a 4-yard run, and the Scots added a two-point conversion with 15 seconds left in the first half.

Jesuit’s second-half possessions all stalled short of the red zone despite two takeaways, including a Logan Thompson fumble recovery following a sack at the HP 37.

“We were moving the ball really well but just struggled getting it into the end zone,” said Jesuit head coach Brandon Hickman. “We were grinding out some yards but couldn’t make the big play.”

Despite the lack of efficiency in terms of points, the Scots ran 72 offensive plays compared to just 47 for the Rangers, which proved critical. They stayed on the ground for 47 of those snaps, as Peck, Axley, and Keller Holmes each had double-digit carries.

Jesuit’s defense is coached by Don Woods, who was HP’s defensive coordinator for consecutive 5A Division I state championships in 2016 and 2017.

“Defensively we played really well,” Hickman said. “We had a chance to win the game because of the way our defense played.”

Peck finished 15-of-24 passing for 181 yards with two interceptions. Peters was 14-of-27 for 174 yards. The Rangers tallied only 25 rushing yards as a team.

Jesuit drops into the middle of the pack in the 7-6A standings heading into a bye week. The Rangers will return to action when they travel to face Berkner on Oct. 13.

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