The opportunistic Mansfield Lake Ridge offense gambled twice early on fourth down, but the Highland Park Scots instead cashed in for a pair of first-quarter touchdowns.
Those scores would ultimately prove to be the difference as the Eagles dropped a 41-27 decision in a Class 5A Division I regional game Friday at Ford Center at The Star.
Dallas Highland Park (11-2) meets Mansfield Legacy, a 42-10 winner over Frisco Wakeland, in the 5A Division I state quarterfinals at 5:30 p.m. next Friday at AT&T Stadium.
Lake Ridge (8-5) missed on a fourth-down pass with 9:35 left in the first quarter, and Scots running back Jack Kozmetsky took a handoff 48 yards for a touchdown on the next play.
Barely two minutes later the Eagles again came up short on fourth down, and Highland Park scored seven plays later for a 14-0 lead with 4:23 left in the first quarter.
I think that those fourth-down stops were really big for their defense, that was huge.
Mansfield Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor
“We’ve done it all year and accomplished things,” said Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor of the fourth-down gambles. Thor has led the Eagles at least three rounds deep in the postseason for three straight years. “That’s our MO and what we do. Usually we’ll get those calls. They did a good job of stopping us.
“I think that those fourth-down stops were really big for their defense, that was huge.”
The Scots led 21-0 at halftime, and extended that to 28-0 on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Lake Ridge did claw its way back in, though.
Junior quarterback Jason Bean directed a 10-play drive that ended with a 6-yard TD pass to T.J. Graham. Then an interception by Eagles defensive back Elijah Calhoun led to a 23-yard touchdown grab by Zach Jackson to cut the deficit to 28-13.
“Our kids fought and continued to fight in the second half, but we came up short,” Thor said.
Highland Park made it 34-13 early in fourth quarter. The Eagles again attempted to make it a two-score game, but a fourth-down pass by Bean at the Scots’ 17-yard line was batted away by a defender.
Bean finished with 272 passing yards and three touchdowns, and he scored the game’s final touchdown on a 10-yard run.
“Highland Park did good job. They played well,” Thor said. “They made great plays and they deserve it.”