Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Experienced Highland Park takes advantage of Centennial mistakes in 49-7 win
CARROLLTON - Highland Park played its role of proven playoff veteran by jumping on the early mistakes of relative postseason novice Frisco Centennial in a 49-7 Class 4A Division II Region II bi-district playoff win at Standridge Stadium.
Ranked No. 1 throughout the regular season, Highland Park (11-0) scored on three of its first four possessions and tossed in a 12-yard interception return for a touchdown by junior defensive end Thomas Perry for a 28-7 halftime lead. Highland Park ended its fourth possession at Centennial's 1 as time expired in the first half.
Highland Park will face Hillcrest (8-2) in the area round at next Friday at Highlander Stadium.
In its 16th-straight playoff appearance, Highland Park used its quarterback tandem of senior Jake Howeth and junior Brady Burgin to near dual-threat perfection to overwhelm Centennial (6-5), ranked No. 18 and making just its second playoff appearance in its seventh varsity season.
Howeth notched his 24th and 25th rushing touchdowns of the season on short-yardage runs and finished with 146 yards on 19 carries. Burgin was 12-for-12 passing for 171 yards.
Highland Park receivers made several acrobatic catches as senior Ben McElroy tip-toed in a one-handed touchdown reception for 18 yards from Howeth for Highland Park's first score. And junior Dalton Stogner caught a 65 yard touchdown pass by streaking past the Centennial secondary down the right sideline.
After Perry returned his interception to give Highland Park a 21-7 lead in the first quarter, senior linebacker Reid Oden had the final score on a 25-yard interception return in the fourth quarter. Oden also recovered a fumble and made another interception.
"We kept them out of the end zone, which is not easy," Highland Park Randy Allen said. "Our defense scored and set up scores. I think we're getting better. It will be great to have a playoff game at home for our community. I think we'll have a great crowd."
HP trailed, 7-0, after Centennial scored on its first drive on a 20-yard touchdown run by senior running back Jamel Bullock. Centennial, which also lost in the first round of its first playoff appearance in '08, quickly lost momentum.