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Clutch time: Frisco upsets Highland Park in final minutes
For Frisco, there was no potential upset to it.
The Raccoons came into Friday’s bi-district battle against Highland Park with plenty of confidence.
“I think the only difference between a Highland Park and some of the other teams we’ve played this year is that Highland Park expects to win,” said Vance Gibson, Frisco head coach.
Frisco used that mentality to stun the Scots, earning a 21-20 victory and eliminating Highland Park from the postseason.
“You have to believe in the scheme, your teammates and our coaches,” Gibson said. “The kids are buying into that.”
That philosophy allowed for a quick start at Apogee Stadium from the University of North Texas in Denton. Frisco (8-3, 6-1 in District 9-4A) stormed out to a 14-0 lead after touchdown runs from senior running back Ben Cole and junior quarterback Jake Battaglia.
“That really gave our kids some confidence early on that we could move the ball against [Highland Park],” Gibson said.
The Raccoons took the two-score lead into the second quarter before both teams buckled down on defense. Each offense was held scoreless for the opening 10-plus minutes of the frame before the Scots trimmed the Frisco lead to 14-7 on a 1-yard run from senior quarterback Jet Tuma.
With both teams trading scoreless possessions for a majority of the third, Highland Park eventually knotted the game at 14-14 when Tuma connected with senior receiver Matt Bannon on a 24-yard touchdown strike with 4:24 left in the quarter. That score would remain entering the final 12 minutes.
It wasn’t long into the fourth when Highland Park senior running back Rob Williams gave his team its first lead of the night on a 3-yard run. However, a failed extra point kept it a 20-14 contest with 8:44 remaining in the game.
That’s when Battaglia and the Raccoons orchestrated a clutch go-ahead drive that spanned more than seven minutes of play and included three fourth-down conversions en route to the end zone.
The 15-play possession was capped with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Battaglia to junior running back Max Steitle that came on a fourth-and-five play.
“What impressed me the most is that when we got behind, the kids reacted with that game-winning drive,” Gibson said. “That’s usually the kind of thing that Highland Park pulls off on somebody.”
Battaglia ended the night with 100 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions after completing 7-of-11 attempts. The junior also added a first-quarter scoring run.
“[Battaglia] has done an excellent job this year,” Gibson said. “He doesn’t have to win the game by himself because of the offense we run and he understands that and manages the game well.”
Frisco’s final drive gave the team 335 total yards of offense to Highland Park’s 330. The Raccoons racked up 235 yards on the ground after carrying it 58 times, as Cole led the way with 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 attempts.
“We like to get everyone involved,” Gibson said. “It’s not just one player getting all the carries for us.”
Frisco will look to carry over that balance during Friday’s 1 p.m. game against Dallas Samuell at Hanby Stadium in Mesquite.
“[Samuell] is a team that has great speed,” Gibson said. “We will have to contain their skill kids because if they get in the open field, we aren’t chasing them down from behind.”