Despite entering Friday night’s home contest with Mount Gilead with a chance of advancing to the postseason, that was not Highland’s focus.
For the Scots to reach the playoffs, a number of results in Region 14 of Division IV had to go their way with the team having no control over those outcomes. On the other hand, by topping the Indians, Highland could take care of the one thing they had control over — winning the Blue Division title outright, instead of sharing it like they did in 2015.
“We just concentrated all week on beating Mount Gilead and winning the league,” said head coach Chad Carpenter after his team did just that, earning a 49-7 win over MG. “Everything else is out of our control.”
The Scots won thanks to a strong showing on both sides of the ball, holding the Indians to one scoring drive while grinding out large amounts of yards throughout the contest. The team’s first drive was one of their few low points on the day, as after advancing inside the MG 40, they stalled and turned the ball over on downs.
However, they would force a quick Indian punt, took the ball on their own 39 and wasted no more time in lighting up the scoreboard. Jared Limings ran for eight yards and Logan Veley added 11 more before quarterback Max Schreiber connected with Javier Vasquez for 28 to move the ball to the MG 14. Four plays later, Limings scored on a three-yard run and Satchel Denton added the PAT to give Highland a 7-0 lead with 5:18 to play in the opening period.
“Their offensive line is very good and they’re very well-coached,” said Indian coach Jason Ross of the Scots. “Not only at teaching football, but teaching them how to play.”
Mount Gilead got off to a good start on their next drive, getting a 24-yard pass from Tyler Bland to Mason Mollohan to move the ball into Scot territory at the 41. Four more plays would only net nine yards, though, giving the ball back to Highland.
The Scots quickly struck again, with Limings only needing four carries, one for 46 yards, to reach the end zone and make the score 14-0 late in the opening period.
Mount Gilead would mount another drive, getting a run of 30 yards from Bland followed by a 12-yard carry by Jonah Barnett to get into the red zone. Once again, Highland’s defense would rise up and get a stop, forcing another turnover via downs at their 14.
After getting the ball back, the Scots would embark on another scoring drive, moving 86 yards in only seven plays. Schreiber came up big for Highland, completing passes of eight and 30 yards to Veley before hitting Josh Cantrell for a 32-yard scoring pass.
It looked like the score might remain 21-0 going into the half, but after forcing a punt with 1:37 left in the second quarter, the Scots struck quickly to add seven points to that margin. Starting from their own 48, Highland got a short pass from Schreiber to Dylan Tuggle, who pitched it to Brock Veley, who ran 45 yards to complete a 52-yard scoring play.
“I know I say this a lot, but each week we get more confident,” said Carpenter. “It was a great team effort tonight.”
The MG fans got something to cheer about early in the third quarter when Barnett took the team’s first play from scrimmage in the second half 68 yards for a touchdown, but Highland would then take the wind out of their sails with a 12-play drive that lasted nearly six minutes.
During that possession, the Scots overcame both a chop block and holding penalty to maintain their possession. Limings would run the ball nine times on the drive for 76 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown to put the Scots up 35-7.
“They did a nice job of keeping the momentum,” said Ross. “To me, the mark of a great football team is that you know what they’ll do and they do it anyway.”
Limings would score twice more on carries of four and 36 yards to cement the team’s win. That final score was a special one for the Scots as it gave them a team record for most points tallied in a season with 386.
“It really is special,” said Carpenter. “We’ve had some really good football teams here, so for us to break the single-season record is a real accomplishment. I think Max threw for over 1000 yards and Jared had about 1650 and a lot of guys contributed. That’s a team effort.”
As their season ended, the Indians will move on without a strong senior class, including Barnett, who led the league in rushing yards.
“We have a great senior class,” said Ross. “The kids did anything we asked of them. We’re obviously going to miss them. They’re good football players, but all 10 are great young men. If my sons are like them, I’ll be proud.”
While Highland’s playoff chances were out of their control, Carpenter was pleased with how they were able to take care of what they could.
“I’m really pleased,” he said. “Winning the league was one of the goals the kids set at the beginning of the year. It’s good to see them reach that.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS