Written by Matt Wixon
Icy conditions don't hold back Highland Park from returning to 4A semifinals
ALLEN — Wylie and Highland Park put up big numbers on offense throughout the season. But with the temperature below freezing at kickoff Monday night, the only thing that piled up at Eagle Stadium was the ice beyond the end zone.
But after a second half featuring little offense, Highland Park running back Cole Feigl provided the icebreaker — and game-breaker — with a 55-yard touchdown run that sealed Highland Park’s 27-14 victory in the Class 4A Division I Region II final.
“I was freaking out,” Feigl said of the feeling as he broke free for the touchdown run with 2:50 left. “I was about to cry, in all honesty. Stephen Dieb, the running back on the other side of me, made such a great block. This one belongs to him.”
The run was a huge relief for Highland Park (13-1), which will take on defending champion Denton Guyer in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday at Eagle Stadium. The Scots, who averaged 44 points in their first three playoff games, struggled to move the ball on the frigid night.
Both teams did. Highland Park and Wylie (9-5), which averaged more than 50 points in its first three playoff games, combined to punt the ball 14 times in the game. Their passing offenses managed to complete 29 of 69 attempts.
“We knew it was going to be a defensive battle,” said Highland Park linebacker Brooks Oden. “When the offense wasn’t going, we had their backs.”
Highland Park’s first drive of the game was its best, and the Scots took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Wylie’s first four drives, on the other hand, ended with a turnover on downs, two punts and a lost fumble.
But with three minutes remaining in the first half, Kameron Kelly pulled in a long pass from Carsen Cook along the left sideline and raced away for a 75-yard touchdown.
The score cut Highland Park’s lead to 14-7, and after the Scots went three-and-out on their next drive, Wylie had the ball and the momentum.
But not for long, because Highland Park linebacker Mitchell Kaufman sniffed out a screen play, picked off the pass and ran 40 yards for a touchdown with 1:12 left. It gave Highland Park a 21-7 lead and a cushion that it would need in the second half.
Highland Park’s offense only managed 14 yards in the third quarter, and Wylie blocked a punt to set up a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. Kelly’s 3-yard touchdown run cut HP’s lead to 21-14 with 6:54 left.
The Scots’ defense stood tall after that, forcing Wylie punts and turnovers on downs as the Pirates tried to even the game. Leading 21-14, Highland Park got the ball back with 3:17 to play and the goal of running out the clock.
On second-and-5, Feigl ran off right tackle and escaped for the clinching score.
“It was the best feeling seeing him break away,” Oden said.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon.