4A-I preview: Highland Park headlines Region 2


Overview: A new region champion is sure to emerge since 2010 winner Wylie failed to make the playoffs.

Tyler John Tyler, regional finalist a year ago, is capable of a deep run despite a misleading 7-3 record. All three losses came at the start of the season to Class 5A schools. The Lions were competitive in two of those losses, to highly ranked Longview (38-22) and Lufkin (34-31).

The Lions once again start the playoffs against Texarkana Texas High. John Tyler took last year’s bi-district meeting against the Tigers 26-17.

Look for the most competitive first-round games to come from District 15-16 matchups: West Mesquite-Pflugerville Hendrickson and Waxahachie-Pflugerville Connally.

Of the four Dallas ISD qualifiers in the bracket, two are assured of reaching the second round. Although Dallas Woodrow Wilson (9-1) has a better record, Dallas Kimball (8-2) played in a tougher district and appears to have the best chance of reaching the third round.

Favorite: Highland Park. Returning to the more familiar Division I this season, the Scots are the only unbeaten team in the 16-team bracket. They survived a couple of close calls against Wylie and Rockwall-Heath on the way to a District 10-4A championship and are making a state-record 53rd playoff appearance.

The Scots suffered a blow when top returning receiver Dalton Stogner was lost for the season after tearing his ACL in the fourth game of the season, but quarterback Brady Burgin (2,684 passing yards, 22 touchdowns) and running back Preston Miller (1,129 rushing yards, 21 touchdowns) have picked up the slack with outstanding seasons.

Highland Park has scored at least 40 points in seven games. Five of its wins have come against playoff teams.

Watch out for: Waxahachie. Sandwiched between losing its opener to Class 5A power Flower Mound Marcus and falling to Mesquite Poteet in a Week 10 game with nothing at stake, Waxahachie went on an eight-game winning streak and shared the title in a salty District 15-4A.

The Indians saw their streak of 20 straight playoff appearances snapped a year ago but have roared back behind the quarterback play of Don King III (2,257 passing yards, 18 touchdowns) and the running of Robert Lowe Jr. (1,357 yards, 26 touchdowns).

Waxahachie’s signature win came over rival Corsicana 47-36 in the sixth game of the season. If the Indians can string playoff games together with similar effort, they should be playing in December.

Can’t wait to see: West Mesquite-Pflugerville Hendrickson (7:30 Friday, Waco Midway). This is a bi-district rematch of an entertaining 48-39 West Mesquite victory a year ago when the Wranglers piled up over 600 yards of offense.

A rebuilding West Mesquite lost its first four games this fall but rallied to win five of its last six despite an injury that sidelined freshman starting quarterback Chason Virgil for the season. Shateek Nasir responded when pressed into duty, leading a 22-21 victory over Mesquite Poteet when the Wranglers overcame an 18-point deficit in the second half.

We hope to see: A rematch between Rockwall-Heath and Highland Park in the regional final. The first meeting for the District 10-4A title in Week 9 went to overtime with Highland Park squeezing out a 31-30 victory. The difference was a missed extra point when Rockwall-Heath had a chance to force a second overtime. It remains the only blemish on the record of either team.

The Hawks led 10-9 at the half. Highland Park took control of the third period to build a 24-10 lead only to see Rockwall-Heath mount a two-touchdown comeback in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime.

Rockwall-Heath and Highland Park are in opposite ends of the regional bracket. Each would need to win three games to oppose each other in a state quarterfinal.

Talent pool (FBS recruits): Dallas Bryan Adams: LB Kris Williams (Texas Tech); Pflugerville Hendrickson: TE Reid Mitchell (Rice), RB Daje Johnson (TCU), DE Victor Irokansi (Oklahoma State); Sherman: DB Ryan Reid (Baylor); Texarkana Texas High: OL John Michael McGee (Oklahoma); Tyler John Tyler: DE Eric Davis (Oklahoma State).