The Highland Hawks used a 21 point second quarter and fought off a resilient Gilbert Tigers squad down the stretch to win 41-34 Friday night. The victory in Highland head coach Brock Farrel’s debut season against Gilbert was a little out of the ordinary. His defense picked off Jack Plummer twice, forced another fumble, and consistently pressured the future Boilermaker for 48 minutes and in the end he was pleased.
"They knew coming in what they were up against,” Farrel said. “That's a Division one quarterback. Jack Plummer is a great player. We've gotten after it on that side of the ball all season."
In a district rivalry that's nearly two decades old you could throw out the records. Not that this year either fan base would want to at 6-2 & 4-4.
In a season where their claim to fame has been on defense it was a stable of backs- Kohner Cullimore, Jacob Wood, and Kaleb Herbert that keyed a rivalry win. The three, along with a mixture of Dayton Huffman, matriculated the ball on the evening to support the cause.
Just after the Tigers offense cut it to 14-7 with a 9-yard corner pass from Plummer to Dawson Tanner, the Hawks responded immediately.
Cullimore fielded the kickoff at the 7, broke through the initial defenders, cut it down the visitor sideline, and was gone for a 93-yard crowd-rising kickoff return.
"That was big for us momentum wise to answer right away. Good blocks foremost, then I saw a lane," Cullimore said of his touchdown.
The junior back had a 26-yard td reception a few minutes prior as well as the clincher on the second drive of the fourth quarter.
Wood finished with three rushing touchdowns; a bruising outside run from 52 away, the first from seven, and a two yard plunge.
"Jacob is a great player. He got it started for us early. As for the kickoff return Kohner found a seam. Kaleb doesn't get the credit he deserves just yet but he is getting better and better," stated Farrel.
Gilbert rallied back down from down 35-15 after 3 and then again after each team struck in the fourth to make it 41-22. Plummer found Oscar Lopez and Tyler Laganke for scores to make this interesting. A perfect onside kick separated the two scores; however it failed to re-occur and the Hawks kneeled in victory formation.
Gilbert fell to 4-5 and 1-3 in the 6A Central. They will head to Mountain Pointe for a shot at the Playoffs and coach Derek Zellner felt confident.
"Not to take away from what Highland did but we beat ourselves, the three turnovers, the special teams allowed a kickoff return, we had some drops from sure-handed receivers, but that fourth down fail late hurt us. We're right there we've been in these close ball games. To put it over the top we need some leadership. We will challenge them this week to finish a game.” Zellner said.
Jack Plummer, Purdue Boilermakers commit, faired well throwing 28/42 for 288 yards and five touchdowns. Tyler Laganke and Dawson Tanner scored for the Tigers.
Highland was the six seed entering play. They win their rivalry for the second-straight season. The Hawks (7-2, 3-1) will host senior night on Friday against Desert Ridge for the Central Region co-title. Coach Farrel loves the fight he is seeing but didn't want to discuss the Jaguars just yet.
"Our defense has kept us in ball-games. We will enjoy this win and get to that task in later this weekend. I'll watch film and devise a game-plan."