Whether it was a defensive showcase or an offensive struggle was irrelevant for Highland Park on Friday. It resulted in a win either way.
The Scots held off Irving MacArthur 24-14 at Highlander Stadium to extend their winning streak to five games and retain a share of first place in District 7-6A.
While the HP offense couldn’t get in sync early, the defense blanked MacArthur for the first three quarters to give the Scots a helpful cushion and grind out the victory.
After the Scots (7-1, 5-1) led just 10-0 late in the third quarter, Keller Holmes and Cooper Schendle each ran for late touchdowns against a stingy MacArthur defense.
“We had two touchdowns called back because of penalties. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m glad our guys gutted it out,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “Our defense played really well, and we got some points when we needed them.”
Highland Park had favorable field position for much of the game — thanks in part to some stellar punting — but floundered because of sacks and penalties.
The Scots penetrated inside the MacArthur 35-yard line on their first six drives yet came away with just 10 points. On one occasion, they had first down at the MacArthur 11 and didn’t score.
However, the HP defense made some key stops to preserve the lead, including a second-quarter interception by sophomore linebacker Beau Jones in MacArthur territory. But that led to a missed field goal.
Warren Peck hit Canon Spackman on a 32-yard scoring pass in the first quarter, which provided the game’s only touchdown in the first 35 minutes.
“We got to playing their game, where they were just trying to run the clock,” Allen said. “They didn’t give us anything easy. We didn’t have very many explosive plays. We couldn’t get it sped back up, and they kept it close.”
The ugliness of the game was just fine with the Cardinals (2-6, 2-4), who decelerated the pace in an effort to keep the HP offense on the sidelines, although capitalizing on that strategy proved difficult.
“We wanted to slow the game down. We don’t have the depth to play a fast game,” said MacArthur head coach Beck Nitcholas. “We had to overcome the field position. We finally started to get a little bit of rhythm.”
MacArthur didn’t mount a serious scoring threat until late in the game. Tyler Littleton threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score — both on fourth down — in the final quarter.
Schendle accumulated a game-high 74 rushing yards while filling in for Wilson Axley, who missed the game with an injury. Eight different receivers caught passes from Peck, who finished 13-of-21 for 150 yards.
The Scots will have a short week to prepare for a road game at Richardson on Oct. 26. A win would enable them to wrap up the top seed from 7-6A in the Class 6A Division II playoff bracket.
PHOTOS: Chris McGathey