Cowboy down

Coppell falls short in shootout with 5A powerhouse Highland Park


Blanche Harris

Coppell senior linebacker Marcelo Estrada collides with a Highland Park player while Coppell senior defensive back Will Kraus watches on at the Highlander Stadium last night. Coppell fell to Highland Park 42-36.

Meer Mahfuz, Co-Sports Editor

DALLAS – Booming music, cheering crowds, a passionate student section, a subtle breeze and an exhilarating atmosphere set up what could have been one of the great comebacks in Texas high school football. It all came down to one game-changing play: the onside kick.

There were three onside kick attempts in the game itself, but Coppell senior kicker Tyler Reid’s first two onside kick attempts bounced right into the hands of a Highland Park special teamer, failing. 

But this play was important. After junior wide receiver Anthony Black’s touchdown, Coppell was down six with 2:15 remaining on the clock.The Cowboys needed this to work. 

In stepped sophomore kicker Nicolas Radicic. While Radicic only played a combined four snaps in the last two games, he was the man for onside kicks. He stepped up, he ran, he kicked but the ball took two quick bounces on the ground and popped straight into the hands of another Highland Park special teamer, seemingly ending the fairytale comeback.    

When it was all said and done, Highland Park 12 rose victorious over Coppell 42-36 at the Highlander Stadium last night.

Coppell (2-1) collected an interception on the first play of the game by senior safety Zach Stricker, returning it for 29 yards but the Cowboys were not sharp on both sides of the ball. 

“We came out flat as a team in the first half, we did not play well offensively or defensively,” Coppell coach Michael DeWitt said. “We had some mental busts and we just didn’t come ready to play.”

Highland Park’s offense hit its stride early with senior quarterback Brayden Shager, a 3-star Hawaii commit, throwing 248 yards and accounting for three of the four first half touchdowns for Highland Park (1-0), rushing for two and throwing one.

But not all of the Coppell’s first half miseries were down to excellent play by Highland Park. The Cowboys were penalized five times in the first half, out of their 12 total for the game, and two offensive drives were ruined by holding and offside penalties, respectively, thwarting any attempt to get any offensive rhythm going.

“It’s a big game, a big crowd and [penalties] are bound to happen but we just [have to] lock in and learn from that going into districts so we can be a complete team.” Black said.

The second half saw a different Coppell team. 

Many defensive plays drawn up in the second half were very similar to the ones in the first half but the mentality shift in the Coppell players is what limited Highland Park to 15 points compared to its 27 in the first half and created four turnovers (two interceptions and two fumbles) in total.

“We ran the same [plays but] the kids just played really hard,” DeWitt said. “They played a whole lot harder [in the second half], we got off a couple blocks, we made plays, and we created some takeaways as well.”

Coppell’s first half saw the majority of its plays drawn up as running or quarterback rushing plays but the second half saw more play-action passes and created more receiving opportunities.

With the Coppell student section rallying in the background, chanting “Feed Him, Feed Him, Feed Him”, in reference to throwing to Liggins, the second half saw him haul in 107 out of 112 total yards. 

“[In the] second half, we picked it up, threw the ball more, and saw what we could do,”  Liggins said. 

Black faced double coverage for most of the first half, limiting him in what he could do, but the coverage took its foot off the gas in the second half, unleashing Black to three touchdown receptions and 105 yards on 11 receptions. 

Last night’s game saw 78 points scored, similar to last week’s victory to Sachse with 77 total points. With busted coverages, penalties, incomplete games and other similar themes running through both of the games, Coppell will have next week off to hone in on improvement and rest.  

“We just need to work on putting two halves together,” Black said. “Even in the Sachse game, we played good the first half but the second half was laggy, and [last night] we were lacking in the first half then we picked it up in the second half [so] if we could just put two halves together we’ll be good”

Next week, Coppell will have a bye week and prepare for District 6-6A opener at Plano on Oct. 23.

“We have a bye week to recharge and get ready for district [play],” DeWitt said. “It’s a new season, we’re 0-0 now, non-district doesn’t matter and we have to get this thing going.”  

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