Nicholas Rigas’ 28-yard field goal attempt knuckled through the misting rain and the uprights as time expired to give Highland Park High School a 22-21 win over McKinney High School in the Area Round of the 6A Division II High School Football Playoffs at SMU’s Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Friday night.
Highland Park overcame a 21-6 halftime deficit and held McKinney to just 60 total yards and no points in the second half.
“They had an outstanding football team, and our guys just fought and found a way to win,” Highland Park head coach Randy Allen told the media postgame. “I don’t know how else to say it. They found a way to win.”
Highland Park took the game’s first drive deep into McKinney territory, settled for a Rigas field goal, and added another early in the second quarter after a fumble by McKinney on a punt return to take a 6-0 lead.
McKinney responded by closing the half with 21 unanswered points as the Scots suddenly struggled to move the ball, and the Lions capitalized on a short field.
Quarterback Jeremiah Daoud completed a 58-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Khristian Mackintrush to take a 7-6 lead. After Highland Park muffed a punt, running back Bryan Jackson added a short rushing touchdown, and Daoud connected with Makhi Frazier on another touchdown pass.
Highland Park refused to quit, as its defense kept it in the game. Although unable to move the ball much on its first couple of drives in the second half, the Scots broke through as running back Keller Holmes found the end zone to cut the deficit to eight with 2:23 remaining in the third quarter.
The Scots had lined up for a two-point conversion to make it a touchdown game, but an offensive pass interference penalty pushed the ball back, and Rigas had to convert a long extra-point kick.
Highland Park’s passing game finally broke through in the fourth quarter with a 35-yard completion from quarterback Parker Thompson to running back Wilson Axley, and followed it with a big gain on a halfback pass from Axley to Brian Rapp.
Holmes scored again from inside the one-yard line a few plays later, giving Highland Park a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion attempt. Thompson rolled out and had a wide-open Paxton Smith, but the throw was a little behind the receiver, and the ball fell to the ground as the conversion attempt failed.
The Scots’ defense came up with one last stop, as Wesley Winfield notched a third-down sack to force McKinney into a 4th-and-20 inside its own territory and give Highland Park one last chance with just over 1:30 on the clock.
The drive seemed to stall as Thompson completed a short third-down pass to Axley short of the first-down marker. However, the referees called McKinney for roughing the passer, extending the drive.
From there, Highland Park slowed things down and timed it up for Rigas to attempt the winning kick in the final seconds.
Thompson threw for 148 yards, while Holmes scored two touchdowns, and Rigas made all three of his field goal attempts for Highland Park.
Daoud threw for 105 yards and two touchdowns, and Jackson ran for 84 yards and a touchdown for McKinney.
Highland Park (11-1, 7-1 District 7-6A) advances to face Southlake Carroll (11-1, 6-1 District 4-6A) in the 6A Division II Regional round at 2:30 p.m. at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington next Friday, and McKinney’s (9-3, 5-2 District 5-6A) season is over.