KINGSTON — Defensively, Scott High played well enough to win Friday’s rivalry game here. The Highlanders gave up a 35-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, then didn’t allow Kingston to find the end zone again until the third quarter — and gave up just two touchdowns all night.
But an entire season of injuries and adversity took its toll on the offensive side of the ball, where the Highlanders were limited to 128 yards and were kept out of the end zone for the first time in this series since 2007.
The game — closer than the score indicated, thanks to a hard-nosed defensive effort by the Highlanders — hinged on a few key statistics: Kingston was able to accumulate more than 200 yards on the ground, averaging almost six yards per carry, and the Yellowjackets converted 5 of 8 third downs.
Still, the game was close until the fourth quarter, when Daunte Inman intercepted a pass and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
In light of the rash of injuries, the Highlanders were forced to do a lot of shuffling on the offensive side of the ball. Freshman Brady Strunk made the start at quarterback, completing 9 of 14 passes for 63 yards. Strunk wasn’t even on the depth chart at quarterback to start the season; he was expected to QB the freshman team, while factoring into the equation at running back for the varsity squad.
But Scott High has lost three quarterbacks to various reasons throughout the season. Sophomore Noah Buttram started the season at quarterback, but was lost to a broken ankle. Senior Alex Rector was out for Friday’s game after suffering a separated shoulder against Austin-East.
The quarterback shuffle took Strunk out of the running back role — although he was still Scott’s second-leading rusher, with 36 yards on 15 carries — and the Highlanders are still without sophomore Ashton Rowe, who has been nursing injuries throughout the season. Brandon Carson, who is the Highlanders’ leading tackler, moved into a critical role in the offensive backfield, and finished with a team-high 37 yards on eight carries. He also had six tackles and a fumble recovery.
In all, there were 10 Highlanders on the sideline, still recovering from injuries, when Friday’s game started. Most of them were starters at the beginning of the season. Throw in a couple of off-the-field incidents that cost Scott three more starters, and the lack of depth was obvious against the Yellowjackets.
To sum up how Scott High’s season has gone, Micah Owens stepped up on defensive in Friday’s game, tying for a team-high in tackles, with six, but suffered a possible concussion towards the end of the contest.
Despite all of that, the game — which was played with playoff hopes on the line for both teams — was never out of reach until Inman’s pick-six late in the fourth quarter.
Kingston started the game by moving quickly into Scott High territory, but turned the ball over on downs after a fourth down stop by CJ Collier, who finished with six tackles.
The Yellowjackets scored on their second possession, after forcing a three-and-out by the Highlanders, with Marcus Rose breaking free for a 35-yard touchdown.
That was all the points Kingston could muster in the first half, and the Yellowjackets’ third possession ended in a fumble at midfield, which was recovered by Carson.
From there, the Highlanders got the ball into the red zone after a first down run by Carson and a 16-yard sprint by Strunk, but a holding penalty ultimately killed the drive, and Scott was forced to punt.
Scott again got the ball into Kingston territory on its next drive, getting as close as the 29-yard-line. But the Yellowjackets were ultimately able to get a stop.
The third quarter started with the Highlanders getting a first down and crossing the 50 for the third time on the evening, but Kingston’s defense again rose to the occasion, forcing a punt. From there, the Yellowjackets put together a lengthy drive that consumed most of the third quarter and ended with a 9-yard touchdown run by Carson Donathan.
The Highlanders were unable to move the ball, and Kingston had an opportunity to put the game away, but Scott’s defense forced a turnover on downs with a fourth down incomplete pass.
With time running out, the Highlanders were forced to abandon their run game and go to the air. Strunk and Mason Owens connected for a 14-yard gain to move the ball to near midfield, but then Inman intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown to put the game away.
The game ended with three consecutive completions from Strunk to Owens, but time expired before the Highlanders could get the ball into scoring position.