Coming into opening night of this season, Highland felt very little respect.
That is what happens when you have not had a winning season in four years.
But after a 37-0 road win over rival-Mesquite, the Hawks might have earned an ounce of credibility and forced their upcoming opponents to take notice of a team which hasn’t had a winning record since 2008, and the last time the Hawks won their season opener.
Highland came out and set the tone defensively late in the first quarter. In a scoreless game the Hawks recovered a fumble and scored on fourth down when James Brletic rushed two yards for a 7-0 Highland lead.
That was merely the start of what turned out to be a coming out party of sorts for the Hawks’ defense. Highland forced two more turnovers on the next two Wildcat drives and capitalized with a touchdown and a field goal.
The Hawks led 23-0 at halftime and pilled it on in the second half. Tre Tyler had an interception and a sack. Grant Thompson had a big sack to end the first half when the Wildcats threatened to score, and Casey Cole had an interception in the first half.
Cole left the game for good in the second half with a reported head/neck injury but reports from coaches afterward was that he was able to move his extremities on the sideline and appeared to be fine.
Outside of that scare, it was Highland’s night. James Brletic and Blake Young each rushed for two touchdowns, and Brletic broke the game open to start the second half with a 65-yard run for a 30-0 lead.
“We scored 37 points, which is both sides of the ball, special teams were solid, the offense was very very good and the defense was flying around all game long,” Highland coach Pete Wahlheim said. “We played great team defense and those guys got after it. I was proud of the whole team today. I am happy for these kids and this is as good of a group as I have ever coached.”
Tyler also shied away from his individual play afterward.
“We played solid,” he said. “A shutout in the first game is great and we are going to give people something to talk about now. We are a good team this year and it feels good.”
For Mesquite, the loss of several talented seniors from a year ago, including star running back Anthony Lopez, showed in the opening game of the season. It’s a team with 12 seniors on the roster and two starters back from 2011.
“This is what happens when you have 18 brand new varsity starters,” Wildcats coach Matt Gracey said. “We are young and we made a lot of young kid mistakes. It’s just going to take a little bit of time. And we will come back on Monday and watch the film and get better.”
Highland.........0 16 7 14 -- 37
Mesquite........0 0 0 0 -- 0
H - Brletic 2 run (Miller kick)
H - Johnson 60 catch (kick failed)
H - Miller 10 FG
H - Brletic 65 run (Miller kick)
H - Young 13 run (Miller kick)
H - Young 29 run (Miller kick)