Next for upstart Mesquite Poteet: Highland Park

It has become obvious to Mesquite Poteet fans that head coach Randy Jackson has worked wonders to bring a no-win team from last year to a regional semifinalist in 2010. But Jackson is also receiving credit from two more unlikely sources.

“This maybe be one of the greatest turnarounds in high school football,” head coach Mike Overton of district rival West Mesquite said. “When Coach Jackson got the job, I think everyone thought they would have improvement. To do what he’s done, if he’s not the coach of the year in Texas, then something’s wrong.”

Both coaches said all of the Mesquite ISD football coaches meet on Thursdays to have lunch and build fellowship among area rivals, and the outpouring of well wishes toward all the Mesquite teams, especially Poteet, has been incredible.

“It does a lot for community spirit when just one of the local teams are in the playoffs, but with three teams advancing this year, individual team loyalties lose its priority and the community pulls for all of its teams,” Mesquite deputy city manager Carol Zolnerowich said.

Now Poteet (10-2) faces Highland Park (12-0), one of the area’s most successful playoff schools and a team the Pirates have never beaten, in the Region II semifinals of the 4A Division II playoffs. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at Cowboys Stadium.

Highland Park coach Randy Allen had to acknowledge the achievements Poteet has made this season.

“They are a pleasure to watch,” Allen said. “They play with great effort and they are so well coached. You can tell they believe in what the coaches are telling them and that they enjoy playing the game. It’s every coach’s dream to come to a team like that and make a quick turnaround, and they’ve done a great job of that.”

However, Allen has a coach’s dream of his own: years of great football players and playoff success.

The Scots' offensive attack is based on a dual-quarterback system featuring runner Jake Howeth and pocket passer Brady Burgin. Burgin leads the team in passing yards with 1,811, while Howeth leads the ground game with 1,199 yards rushing.

“We knew we had a good athlete in Jake who could run and throw and we had a passer in Brady, and we just try to emphasize what they are strong at,” Allen said. “They have been unselfish and it has been a good thing for our team.”

For the majority of the games this season, Howeth plays the first and third quarters while Burgin plays in the third and fourth quarters. Howeth is also utilized in short-yardage and goal-line situations and has had a very high success rate in picking up those important yards. Allen said Howeth might be the best short-yardage back he’s coached.

Poteet relies on the notion that it has a battle-tested defense which has stood its ground against several tough teams, including Hutto and Whitehouse in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Poteet has good senior leadership in a defensive front that will be key in controlling Howeth.

Jackson said he is taking his team out to Cowboys Stadium on Friday to watch West Mesquite play Wylie to help shake the stars out of his players eyes.

While most credit Jackson for the Pirates' turnaround, he credits his players for believing in the system.

“Our seniors from spring to summer have looked us right in the eye and said, ‘We’ll do whatever you want us to do,’” Jackson said. “Our kids didn’t know any better. Whenever we say go, they went. I just can’t imagine another group of kids that could come in and do this and play with the people we’ve played.”