5A DI State Championship: Highland Park 16, Temple 7





The Class 5A Division I state championship game was expected to be a heavyweight defensive battle, so it came as no surprise when a key fourth down stop inside the 5-yard line made the difference in the game.

Highland Park took a 14-7 lead on a 1-yard run by John Stephen Jones with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but Temple quickly responded by driving right back down into the red zone.

Less than two minutes into the fourth, the Wildcats faced a fourth down and two from the 5-yard line with the game on the line. Temple tried to run the ball up the middle, but just as it has all season long, the stingy Highland Park defense came up with a stop when it needed one to claim its first state championship since 2005 in a 16-7 win.

“That was a huge play,” senior defensive lineman Turner Coxe said. “Our defense was pinned back there, everybody did their thing and we just made a great play and stopped them on fourth down.”

Temple had another chance to tie the game after forcing a punt on the ensuing possession, but Highland Park punter Michael Clarke pinned the Wildcats inside the 1-yard line with a coffin corner punt that made things difficult on the Temple offense.

With a seven-point lead, the Scots defense again rose to the occasion when senior Turner Coxe broke through the Wildcats’ offensive line and dragged Reid Hesse down for the game-clinching safety.

“He’s a monster,” Temple coach Scott Stewart said of Coxe. “Their front three was as good as we’ve faced. From a technical standpoint, those guys did a phenomenal job over there.”

Things got off to a rough start for the Highland Park offense, as a bad snap on the first play of the game pinned the Scots all the way back on their own 13-yard line. Highland Park managed just 1-yard of offense in the entire first quarter as the Temple defense had its way early on.

But as the game progressed, Highland Park began to wear down the bigger Wildcats’ defense.

Jemiyah Franklin gave Temple a 7-0 lead on a nifty 38-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but the momentum began to shift after that. John Stephen Jones and the Scots finally got the big play they needed when the senior quarterback broke through the defense for a 36-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.

“Our O-line made some great blocks, and our receivers made some big blocks downfield,” Jones said. “Great team effort on that play.”

Jones had a rough time through the air – 9-23 for 96 yards and an interception – but his impact on the ground was the difference in the game. The numbers weren’t impressive – 29 yards on 10 carries – but his touchdowns of 36 and 1-yard were all the Scots defense needed.

Jones – who also caught a pass on a trick play that went for 31-yards – was named the offensive MVP for his performance.

Defensively, Coxe took home defensive MVP honors, but the Highland Park secondary was just as crucial. The Scots came up with key plays throughout the game to prevent the Temple offense from going deep as they liked to do throughout the year.

“They played off and were going to make us chunk and dunk underneath,” Stewart said. “We didn’t execute very well today, and they had a lot to do with that.

Senior defensive back Alex Walzel had a huge game for Highland Park, finishing with three pass break-ups and a big interception near the end zone towards the end of the first half.

“I worried all week because our skill guys were going to get put into one-on-one situations on deep passes – I knew that,” Highland Park coach Randy Allen said. “I knew that we were going to have to make plays on the ball with the ball in the air. Our guys went up and found a way to keep a good receiver from getting the ball.”

The big defensive performance was a fitting end to the season for Highland Park, which allowed an average of just 10 points in six playoff games.

“When everybody was watching – almost 40,000 people – and they had to make plays against an extremely talented football team, they came through,” Allen said. “All I can tell you is they are tenacious competitors.”

 Brady Keane


Region I faced off with Region III for the Class 5A Division I title. It was foreseen before the season, except few people predicted the two representatives would be Highland Park and Temple. In the end, the Scots reigned supreme and Region I claimed a sweep in Class 5A.

Class 5A appeared top heavy. Four teams controlled the landscape early, at least in perception. Denton Ryan, Aledo, Cedar Park and Manvel were contenders – the rest of the state was playing for consolation prizes. Well, not quite.

Aledo proved prognosticators right with a Class 5A Division II title. Highland Park proved why the games are played on the field rather than paper in an upset victory over Temple. Neither team was expected to win a region, much less play for a state title.

Temple reached the state championship by knocking off Manvel in the Region III final after Manvel knocked off Cedar Park a week before. Couple that with Highland Park’s upset victory over Denton Ryan in Region I and the three favorites in Division I were eliminated before the state semifinals.

Rankings are more of a compass than a map, at least in a sport with a true playoff. A compass offers direction, not necessarily a destination. That’s not to say both of these teams weren’t expected to compete. Highland Park and Temple entered the season ranked fifth and sixth, respectfully, in our preseason poll – right behind the four favorites.

Early season losses derailed momentum and offered warning signs for both teams. Highland Park lost to Waxahachie. Temple dropped a game to Waco Midway a week later and lost a second in a row when Class 6A Cedar Ridge knocked off the Wildcats. Temple and Highland Park also picked up district losses. The Scots dropped the last game of the regular season, while Temple was beaten by College Station.

None of it mattered. That’s the beauty of a playoff. Get in the playoffs and anything can happen, especially for teams considered in the top 10 before the season. Each team had history. Each team had talent. Now, Highland Park has another trophy.

– Mike Craven


Highland Park 16, Temple 7

Temple 7 0 0 0 7
Highland Park 0 7 7 0 17

Scoring Summary

1st Qtr. 4:59

Temple – 38-yard run by Jemiyah Franklin (Jared Wiley kick)

2nd Qtr, 3:49

Highland Park – 36-yard run by John Stephen Jones (Matteo Cordray kick)

3rd Qtr. 1:46

Highland Park – 1-yard run by John Stephen Jones (Matteo Cordray kick)

4th Qtr. 5:00

Highland Park – Safety forced by Turner Coxe

Team Stats

Temple Highland Park
First downs 18 15
Rushing yards 104 157
Passing yards 177 127
Passing 21-33-1 10-24-1
Punts – Avg. 3 – 25.7 6 – 34.5
Penalties – Yards 3 – 25 3 – 25
Fumbles – Lost 3 – 1 1 – 0
Third-Down Conversions 6 of 15 6 of 16
Possession Time 0 of 3 1 of 4

Highland Park Individual Leaders

Rushing – Paxton Alexander 26-144, John Jones 10-29 , Jack Fain 1-4.

Passing – John Jones 9-23-96-1, Michael Clarke 1-1-31.

Receiving – Hudson Wood 3-38, John Jones 1-31, Ryan Waters 1-27, JT Dooley 1-14, Jack Toohey 1-10, Matt Gahm 1-5, Parker Alexander 1-3, Paxton Alexander 1-(-1).

Temple Individual Leaders

Rushing – Jemiyah Franklin 20-78, Zion Leach 9-39, Anthony Jefferson 3-9, Reid Hesse 3-0.

Passing – Reid Hesse 21-31-177-1, Jared Wiley 0-1.

Receiving – Xavier Johnson 8-58, Terrance Johnson 5-53, D’Yonte Heckstall 4-31, Zaccheus Johnson 3-27, Jemiyah Franklin 1-8.

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