Touchdown, Highlanders

Scotland's Lucas Dennis (2) gets a hug from teammate Jordan Gall after catching a touchdown pass in the Highlanders' Class 9B playoff football game against Hitchcock-Tulare Thursday night in Scotland.

SCOTLAND — The Scotland Highlanders were content playing keep away against Hitchcock-Tulare in the second half of the opening round of the Class 9B playoffs Thursday night.

The Highlanders lined up in the I-formation and used a mixture of running plays to steadily move the ball down the field and melt the clock.

The end result was a 28-6 victory that advances No. 5 Scotland to a Halloween night road trip to face No. 4 Wolsey-Wessington (7-2).

“We wanted to take three or four yards and a cloud of smoke,” Scotland coach Ryan Robb said after his Highlanders rushed for 304 yards. “We felt like we could control the line of scrimmage at least for that. Take control of the clock, keep the ball out of their hands and finish drives.”

Scotland finished with 335 yards of total offense compared to 112 for Hitchcock-Tulare. In the second half, the Patriots ran 10 plays and possessed the ball for only 5 minutes and 14 seconds.

The Highlanders had the ball for 33 minutes and 48 seconds compared to 14 minutes and 12 seconds for the Patriots (3-6)

“My hat’s off to Scotland, they controlled the line of scrimmage,” Hitchcock-Tulare coach Clint Nelson said. “That’s winning football: keep the other offense off the field. They did everything they were supposed to do in their game plan.”

It was a pair of long second-half scoring drives that allowed Scotland (6-3) to firmly take control of the game.

The Region 3 champion Highlanders opened the second half by marching 66 yards on 13 plays and burning seven minutes and 14 seconds off the clock. Senior Ty Mogck’s 1-yard scoring plunge pushed Scotland’s advantage to 20-6 with 4:46 remaining in the third period.

Scotland then put the game out of reach with another 13-play drive that covered 75 yards and took seven minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter.

Mogck capped it off with a 5-yard touchdown run to make it 28-6 with 4:53 remaining in the game. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Mogck carried the ball 25 times for a team-leading 156 yards, including 95 in the second half.

“When they put together those long drives, it becomes frustrating for the defense,” Nelson said. “When they pick up third and fourth down, that’s when momentum swings and changes.”

The Patriots had a brief moment of momentum in the first half when Jack Boomsma connected with Landon Puffer for a 63-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Puffer ran past a pair of Highlanders for a score that cut the deficit to 14-6 with 1:08 to play in the opening half.

That came after Scotland scored the game’s first 14 points. After recovering a Patriot fumble at its 39 yard line, Scotland senior quarterback Mason Dennis found sophomore Lucas Dennis for a 16-yard touchdown. The two connected again for the two-point conversion to make it 8-0 with 4:59 to play in the first quarter.

Scotland’s fourth possession resulted in the Highlanders’ second touchdown. Lucas Dennis’ 1-yard plunge made it 14-0 with 7:10 to play in the first half.

Defensively, the Highlanders forced two three-and-outs in the first half and came up with a pair of turnovers. In the second half, Scotland had one three-and-out, freshman Bobby Willett recorded his second interception of the game, and the Highlanders allowed only one first down.

“Our defense has been the strength of our team all year,” Robb said. “And they played good again tonight. Bobby Willett had himself a couple turnovers. It was a big game for a freshman. That was great to see.”

Despite the win, Robb said he knows his Highlanders will have to play better to defeat Wolsey-Wessington.

“We’re going to have to execute a lot better than we did tonight. That’s what we said at halftime is that our offense has to finish,” Robb said. “We’ve got to execute and complete drives. You can’t have one or two first downs and then fall asleep. We’ve got to execute in every aspect of the game.”

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