By Todd Fertig
Highland Park football picked up a much-needed victory Thursday night, ending a two-game skid and improving its playoff prospects with a 36-0 non-league win over Kansas City-Northeast, Mo. at Hummer Sports Park.
The visiting Vikings gave the Scots trouble in a sloppy first half, but senior Amari Taylor’s two long scoring receptions gave Highland Park a 16-0 cushion at the break.
“They were sitting on our offense for a little bit, but we just had to make a couple of adjustments,” Taylor said. “We had some new plays we put in and I got great blocks by the team to take it home.”
The Scots cleaned up their sputtering offense in the second half and built enough of a lead to trigger a running clock in the final period.
The Scots’ offensive leader, Jamon Wilson, was limited to just eight yards rushing and zero receptions in the first half, but in the second half he scampered for two touchdowns and also completed a 41-yard scoring pass to William Miller.
Quarterbacking the Scots was junior Ja'Corey Robinson, who gradually worked his way into the position the past couple of games.
Although the Scots lost those two games, coach Jermaine Monroe liked what he saw in Robinson at quarterback.
“He didn’t do anything to lose the job in those games,” Monroe said of Robinson. “The guys responded well to him. He made some plays with his feet. This was really the best week of offensive practice that I’ve ever had at Highland Park, honestly. So, I just stuck with him.”
Having lost 57-6 to Lincoln College Prep and 64-8 to Atchison, Monroe thought the time was right to shake things up. He cut out a day of practice to sit down with the offensive players to discuss how they could improve. The result of that meeting was a return to basics, but with some wrinkles that would make the offense more creative.
“We learned a lot about ourselves the past two weeks,” Monroe said. “There were a lot of mistakes being made in those games. There was a lot of character building, a lot of situations we needed to work on. We actually needed those tough games to prepare for the games that are coming up.”
Highland Park sits at 5-2 with KC-Washington remaining on the regular-season schedule. Every result is factored into playoff seeding. Picking up the win over KC-Northeast and adding to their point differential Thursday night was crucial.
“The goal was to put it all on the line and play for good seeding in the playoffs,” Wilson said. “We can’t drop another game. We showed that we’re a better team than the way we’ve been playing.”
The junior Wilson said that the team had to maintain a positive attitude in order to turn things around.
“We just said that it’s a long season,” Wilson said. “Two games don’t define the rest of the season. We said, ‘Just keep our heads up and we’re going to be alright.’ ”
HIGHLAND PARK 35, KC-NORTHEAST 0
KC-Northeast (0-6) 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Highland Park (5-2) 8 8 14 6 -- 36
Highland Park – Taylor 43 pass from Robinson (Robinson run)
Highland Park – Taylor 47 pass from Robinson (Taylor run)
Highland Park – Wilson 11 run (pass failed)
Highland Park – Wilson 14 run (Montgomery run)
Highland Park – Miller 41 pass from Wilson (run failed)
Rushing -- KC-Northeast: Maurdi 6-25, Todd 2-(minus)12, Aung 4-30, Valentine 7-40. Highland Park: Wilson 9-62, Taylor 2-17, Montgomery 7-50, Robinson 6-52, Miller 1-6.
Passing -- KC-Northeast: Todd 2-10-0 8 yards. Highland Park: Robinson 7-22-3 134 yards, Wilson 2-2-0 65 yards.
Receiving -- KC-Northeast: Valentine 1-(minus)2, Althethari 1-10. Highland Park: Taylor 2-90, Miller 5-86, Sipple 1-10, Montgomery 1-13.
Punting -- KC-Northeast: Albohsam 5-25.0. Highland Park: none.