Game 8 vs. Highland Park

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Highland Park Edges Royse City 46-43
By Bobby Summers
Even though the intimidation factor was there, it was not evident when the Bulldogs received the opening kickoff. Highland Park’s bagpipes, played by their kilted kindred, welcomed everyone to Highlander Stadium. For those that follow Texas high school football history, you could feel the electricity and the tradition within the concrete concaves of the football stadium. Legendary is a word often used when emitting expressions of Highland Park football. Fred Benners, Doak Walker and Bobby Layne, all Highland Park graduates and associated with some of the greatest names and games in the sport of football. These greats would all be proud of the young men on both sides of the line in this match-up. As a matter of fact, Benners, Walker and Layne may have been the deciding edge in what would be considered a classic. Sometimes the spirit of those names is enough to push players to that next level and the Scots needed all the help they could get to pull this one out in the end.
Number three state ranked Highland Park gambled on fourth and one at their own 29 yard line with 1:53 to play in the game. They held a three point advantaged over the Royse City Bulldogs at Highlander Stadium in University Park. If the Scots do not make the first down, they will lose the football game to the Bulldogs. It was a matter of who had the football when the game ended. Highland Park did not want Royse City to get their hands on the ball again.
Highland Park could not stop Royse City. The Bulldogs had stunned the homecoming crowd by going up 28-7 and just barely into the second quarter. The Park Cities team however went on a touchdown rampage and lived up to their legendary status of being one of the most elite class 4A high school football programs in Texas.
What Royse City did in 13:32 of the first and second quarter, Highland Park matched in 8:16 of the second period, They both scored 28 points.
On the very first play of the game, Highland Park was flagged for pass interference. Bulldog senior quarterback Richard Morrison gained a quick 5 yards on the ground. Before the night was over he would rush for 205 yards more. The handoff then went to Frank “The Truck” Dave. Dave broke a tackle up the middle and it was off to the races as he ran 48 yards before he was caught just shy of the goal line. An illegal procedure penalty cost the Bulldogs 5 yards, but Morrison found Justin Jacobs on a 5 yard touchdown pass. Before the night was over, Morrison would also pass for 295 more yards. With just 1:14 elapsed off of the clock, Royse City put the first seven points on the board after Kollin Padon kicked the extra point.
Now follow this closely, because many still had doubts that Royse City belonged playing in this league and against this team of such legendary stature.
Royse City’s defense paid the Scots a visit on their first possession and the best they could do was gain three yards in three plays and punt.
B.J. Farrar returned the punt to the Bulldogs 40 yard line. Morrison hit Jacobs on a 30 yard pass completion. Realizing the Bulldogs had the Scots on their heels, Morrison went for it all and found Ryan Fedric alone in the end zone for a 30 yard touchdown pass completion. Padon kicked the extra point and suddenly you could see cell phones flipping open and phones calls being made. That two play 65 yard drive took exactly 29 seconds and put the Bulldogs ahead of Highland Park 14-0.
The undefeated Scots did not receive their high state ranking on allowing this to go on for very long. Highland Park then mounted a 12 play, 80 yard drive. With 5:40 remaining in the first quarter the Scots answered Royse City’s scoring barrage with a 2 yard touchdown run by Will Glasscock. Matt Bonano kicked the extra point as the Bulldogs maintained a 14-7 lead.
Now this is when it gets very interesting. Following the kickoff, that the Bulldogs returned to their own 29 yard line, Morrison went into the game and lined up at wide receiver. Scotty Arterberry lined up at quarterback and hit a streaking Morrison for a 71 yard touchdown pass. A somewhat timid penalty flag lay within the visitor sideline. After a council meeting between referees, the final ruling was an illegal formation was called and the touchdown pass came back. Facing fourth down and five, another penalty flag flew, however this one was for offsides on the Scots. The ball had snapped so it was a free play for the Bulldogs. Morrison connected with Jacobs in stride for a 65 yard touchdown. Padon’s kick was good, the scoreboard read 21-7 Royse City and the flip phones were flinging open to connect with the outside world of what was happening in Highlander Stadium.
A Bulldog defensive stand and the first quarter ended with Royse City driving again. Morrison began to pick the Scot defense apart with precision passes into triple coverage. On third and two inside Highland Park territory, Morrison charged up the middle and broke loose for a 46 yard touchdown run. Padon’s kick again was good and the non-believers were now believing in the Bulldogs. A shocked Highland Park homecoming crowd sat silently as “Title Town USA“, watched their scoreboard give Royse City a 28-7 lead with 10:28 to play in the second period.
Maybe it was the excitement that caused a huge turn of events. Maybe it was the lack of the killer instinct by the Bulldogs. But just maybe Highland Park was good enough and lucky enough to mount a comeback. And they did. With precision in their execution and some luck, the Scots Quarterback Luke Woodley completed a 44 yard pass to a tripped up receiver falling backwards at the Bulldog 16 yard line. But the Royse City defense held for three downs. On fourth and inches Woodley slipped to the outside on a 9 yard scamper for the touchdown. The kick was good by Bonano and the score read Royse City 28 Highland Park 14.
The Scots rode the emotion and scored again with 6:24 to play in the half. Bryan Dickenson took it in on an 18 yard touchdown run. Bonano kicked the extra point and suddenly there was a sinking feeling in the Bulldog stands as Highland Park trailed by just 7.
Highland Park completely erased the three touchdown lead to even up the score when Bonano fell behind a wall of blockers and returned a Bulldog punt back 65 yards for a touchdown. He also kicked the extra point to tie the score at 28-28 with 5:08 to play in the first half.
Royse City failed to convert a fourth and six on the Highland Park 30 yard line. With 2:36 to play in the half, the Scots were marching again. Behind a succession of successful screen passes, Highland Park polished off a 70 yard drive with a 13 yard touchdown pass from Woodley to Austin Mai. With :39 to play in the half, Highland Park took the lead for the first time in the game.
Leading 35-28, the Scots failed to remember who they were playing and just as a reminder, Morrison struck again with a 46 yard pass completion to B.J. Farrar. One more pass completion to the Highland Park 23 yard line and with :02 to play in the half, the Bulldogs lined up for a 41 yard field goal attempt by Kollin Padon. Padon nailed the kick, but it just barely missed being good, so both teams trotted off to the locker rooms for the halftime break.
The third quarter found the Scots receiving the second half kickoff. A combination of handoffs to Bryan Dickenson and the occasional screen pass helped Highland Park maneuver 80 yards for another score. Woodley converted his second fourth down into points when he completed a 30 yard touchdown pass to Austin Mai. A successful two point pass conversion gave the Scots a 43-28 lead with 8:49 to play in the third period. That would be the last touchdown the Scots would score in the game.
A heart to heart talk from head football coach Greg Strahm at halftime was just enough to convince the Bulldogs that they had every right and all the talent needed to put a stop to the Highland Park offense.
Nobody told the Highland Park fans, so they began to exit the stadium in masses following the last touchdown by the Scots.
Highland Park struggled to move the ball on the defiant Bulldog defense. After marching down to the Bulldog two yard line, the Royse City defense led by Oscar Hernandez, Eddie Mancias, Padon and Arterberry began to hammer the Scots. Padon recorded a 7 yard sack followed by a 9 yard sack by Arterberry and the next thing you know the Scots were backed up to the Royse City 20 yard line. They did manage a 37 yard field goal by Bonano, with 2:28 to play in the third stanza, but they would begin to sustain an insurmountable amount of hits by the Bulldogs defense.
Even though the defensive line of the Bulldogs led by Mancias was so vulnerable because of the size difference, the big Scot offensive line began to fall apart. Exhaustion began to take it’s toll on Highland Park as they were absolutely worn out by the quickness of the Royse City defense.
Trailing 46-28, Morrison found that gap in the Highland Park defense again and again called his own number as he exploded for a 59 yard touchdown run. With :07 remaining in the third quarter Royse City trailed 46-35 and those folks that left should have hung around just a little while longer.
No Bulldog fans left and they stayed to help the cause as Padon busted through to sack Woodley for a 10 yard loss. Senior inside linebacker Angel Herandez joined in and dropped the powerful Scot running back, Dickenson, for a three yard loss and forced Highland Park to punt with 9:44 to play in the game.
Morrison’s first pass of the next series was intercepted, but Hernandez and Padon never let up as they continued to drop the Scots for losses and forced another punt on fourth and 19.
Royse City responded as Morrison gained 31 yards on one run and Frank Dave picked up 11 more to set up a 48 yard field goal attempt by Padon. With 5:34 to play in the game the kick fell short and the Bulldog defense was put back to work.
This time it was Ernesto Vargas making the tackle for the loss of yardage and forcing the Scots to punt again.
With 3:33 to play in the game, the Bulldogs moved 60 yards in just three plays to score. Morrison found Devin Bryant open to continue his streak of touchdowns in a game to three. The 19 yard touchdown toss was capped off by a two point conversion pass to Farrar. With 2:51 to play in this game the Bulldogs were trailing by a field goal, 46-43.
The ensuing kickoff sailed into the end zone. Following three unsuccessful tries at the first down, the Scots were forced to make a game deciding decision. Facing fourth down and one at their own 29 yard line, do they punt or do they go for it? If they punt, the Bulldogs get the ball and more than likely Royse City scores, because Highland Park could not stop them. If they fail on the one yard play, they also give up the ball to Royse City deep in their own territory and Royse City would score. However, if they make it, the Scots win the game. Coach Randy Allen decided to go for it. The handoff went to Dickenson, the big Scot tailback. Dickenson skirted down the line until he found an opening and fell forward for a two yard gain and the first down.
Highland Park ran out the clock for the 46-43 win.
Royse City will travel to Carrollton Newman-Smith for a Thursday night game this week. Also remember this game begins at 7:00 pm. This will be the last regular season road trip for the Bulldogs that are now 5-3 on the season and 3-2 in District 10-4A play.