Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Highland Park shows in spring game why Scots are state-title contenders
UNIVERSITY PARK -- Highland Park has a rare luxury this spring: experienced starters.
Highland Park typically fields a starting lineup loaded with seniors, but thanks to a youth movement last fall it boasts seven returning starters on offense and three on defense.
“That’s a pretty healthy number on offense, it really is,” coach Randy Allen said after Tuesday’s annual Blue-Gold scrimmage. “It’s just great to have that experience coming back, obviously.”
The experience showed in the varsity portion of the scrimmage when the offense reeled off three, 70-yard touchdown drives on its first three possessions. Highland Park faced third down just once in each of the three drives.
The first drive, led by starting quarterback Brady Burgin, took just six plays and ended with Burgin throwing a 17-yard fade to Dalton Stogner for a score.
Scott Ellerman led the next drive and also scored in six plays. Ellerman hit Hunter Feagans down the middle for a 41-yard touchdown.
Burgin took over on the next drive and led an 11-play march, culminating in a 22-yard touchdown toss to running back Preston Miller.
Burgin, who split time last season with Jake Howeth, was 16-of-20 passing for 221 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Ellerman was 5-of-8 for 95 yards and a TD with one pick.
“We scored on almost every drive we had it,” Burgin said. “With all the experience coming back and with us playing together so long, I think we’re going to have a really good, high-scoring offense.”
The defense asserted itself toward the end of the first half with back-to-back interceptions by Christian Munoz and Trevor Sullivan. Munoz picked off another pass in the second half.
“I think that’s a really good sign,” Allen said of the turnovers. “Our defense is going to make lots of strides. We have three starters back, but a lot of those guys that are getting reps are just getting better and we’re real proud of their progress through the spring.”
The experience on defense includes free safety Hayden Greer, outside linebacker Guy Tom Kellogg and defensive end Thomas Perry.
On offense, Miller returns at running back, although he missed some of spring practice while competing in the track team. Tuesday, he rushed eight times for 46 yards and caught four passes for 54 yards and a score.
Receiver Dalton Stogner (6-4, 193) also picked up where he left off last fall with six catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
“Dalton’s a guy you’ve got to double sometimes because you know he can make big plays,” Allen said. “He’s a threat, a big tall receiver that can run.”
But most of the experience is found in the offensive line which features returning starters Tanner Stone, Claiborne Myers and Coleman Glass. Add in Barker Carlock, William Barns and Tanner Hutt, and Myers and Highland Park has depth to go with that experience.
“We feel like we’ve got six guys that we can alternate in there,” Allen said. “We’ve got maybe the best depth in the offensive line since I’ve been here.”
What Highland Park accomplished in spring:
Allen said things started clicking about midway through spring practice once several players returned to football from competing in track and field. However, the absences allowed some younger players a chance to show what they can do.
“We gave a lot of kids an opportunity to compete for positions,” Allen said. “We have a completed depth chart and we feel very comfortable with going into the summer. We have a good idea who’s going to play.”
Most improved player(s) of spring practice: Allen was pleased with the explosiveness Miller showed once he returned from running track. He said Matt Bannon, a converted receiver, has shown speed and ability to cover as a cornerback. Allen said defensive end Clay Crews has shown a knack for knocking down passes and and noted Glass’ play at center.
Skill position battles: While the safety positions are manned by Greer at the free and Luke Utley at the strong, several players are competing for time at cornerback. Bannon, Phillip Pinkston and David Hughes are in the mix, as is baseball player Chris McDade, although McDade could end up at safety.
From the sidelines: “I wanted it to, because Rockwall was up there scouting us and I wanted it to drown out what we were saying on the field,” – Coach Randy Allen on why the pregame warmup music continued to play over the public address system during the scrimmage. Allen also serves as the PA announcer every year for the spring game.
On the field: “He’s the possession guy. If you throw it up, you know he’s probably coming down with it. He runs good routes and catches everything that’s thrown to him. Like tonight, I don’t think he had a dropped ball,” – quarterback Brady Burgin on throwing to receiver Dalton Stogner.
Aug. 27: vs. Everman (at SMU) at 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 2: vs. Monterrey Tech at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9: vs. Sherman at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23: at Rockwall at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30: vs. Wylie East at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7: at Wylie at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14: at Richardson Pearce at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21: vs. McKinney North at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28: at Rockwall-Heath at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4: vs. McKinney at 7:30 p.m.