Sunday, December 04, 2005

ATH: Highland Park Game Story

Well, this isn't the story i was looking for, but it's even better. HP wins with less than a minute to go!

Highland Park hangs on, reaches final
By TIM MACMAHON / The Dallas Morning News, 01:31 AM CST on Sunday, December 4, 2005

DENTON – Holt Martin's first reception of the playoffs was one of the biggest plays in Highland Park's illustrious history.

Matthew Stafford hit Martin for a 7-yard touchdown pass with 37.7 seconds remaining to lift Highland Park to a 41-38 victory Saturday over Stephenville in a Class 4A Division I state semifinal.

Highland Park (14-0), which will play Marshall next week at a time and site to be determined, had to erase a fourth-quarter deficit for the first time this season to advance to the state final for the first time since 1957. Safety John Callahan's diving interception set up the winning drive.

"We've come so far, and we weren't going to quit fighting," said Martin, a senior who missed the first three rounds of the playoffs with a knee injury. "We never let up. We just trusted each other and knew it was going to happen."

A crowd of 21,423 fans at Fouts Field witnessed the classic duel between the state's top two quarterbacks: Highland Park's Stafford and Stephenville's Jevan Snead.

"We'll try the 24-hour rule," Stafford said of celebrating the win, "but I think this one might be a little longer."

Snead, a Texas recruit, completed 16 of 32 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score. Stafford, a Georgia recruit, threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns on 21-of-29 passing.

Stafford connected with John Dickenson (seven catches, 169 yards) for two long touchdowns to help Highland Park take a 27-17 halftime lead.

It appeared as if Highland Park might cruise to the win after Stafford's 22-yard touchdown pass to running back Jake Feldt on fourth-and-17 late in the third quarter made the score 34-23.

But Stephenville (13-1) responded with an eight-play, 71-yard touchdown drive, capped by Snead's 5-yard run, to trim the lead to three.

Stephenville took possession after Highland Park failed to convert a fourth down. Stephenville's Dallas Neal scored on a 94-yard run the next play to seize the lead, 38-34, with 8:07 remaining.

Stephenville had an opportunity to run out the clock when cornerback Cody Davis, who had two interceptions, recovered a fumble with 4:12 remaining. But Callahan made his interception two plays later, giving the potent Highland Park offense the ball at the Stephenville 32.

Seven plays later, Stafford hit Martin on a slant route in the end zone. Martin had a defender draped on his back, but he caught the perfectly placed pass.

"They were determined to win," coach Randy Allen said. "Great players make great plays in big ball games. That's the bottom line."

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