Varsity Football Triumphs Over Lake Highlands

Team takes win as they welcome back Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford for jersey retirement.

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Photo by Elle Polychronis

At the varsity football game against Lake Highland, starting quarterback Brennan Storer runs the ball down the field. In addition to winning, the team also honored alum Matthew Stafford by retiring his number, which Storer also wears. “It was a great win and really important for our season, but it was also a historic night,” Storer said. “I’m grateful they allowed me to be the last player to wear the number 7.”

The varsity football team beat the Lake Highlands Wildcats 52-21 on Sept. 9. 

The game was sold out among general admission, with over 9,000 people attending the game primarily because of the halftime ceremony where Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford’s No. 7 jersey would be retired on the field of Highlander Stadium. To compensate for the huge crowd, new bleachers were added in the endzone where the band and Belles were. 

“We’ve always had great crowds, but there were people scrambling for tickets and they wanted to see Stafford and see his number being retired,” Assistant Coach Grayson Wells said. “It was the first district game and also a neighborhood rivalry.”

For this game’s theme, students were encouraged to wear red, white and blue as a reminder of the 21st anniversary of 9/11.

To start the game off, Lake Highlands kicker, punter and linebacker senior Shallum Peter did the kickoff. Wide receiver senior Jakson Heis caught the ball and advanced to the 20 yard line. 

One minute and 26 seconds into the game, wide receiver senior Beau Lilly scored a touchdown, resulting in a score of 7-0 Scots with the extra point. 

A few more minutes into the game, offensive line junior Charles Thomason scored a touchdown, leaving the score at 14-0 Scots with the extra point.

Nine minutes and 26 seconds into the game, Lake Highlands running back junior Deonte Dean scored a touchdown, putting the score at 14-7 Scots with the extra point from Peter.

Later on in the game, Heis scored a touchdown, making the score 21-7 Scots with the extra point at the end of the first quarter.

Three minutes and two seconds into the second quarter, Lake Highlands advanced to the 10 yard line and scored a touchdown 31 seconds later in addition to an extra point. The score then changed to 21-14.

Five minutes and 24 seconds into the game, quarterback senior Brennan Storer scored a touchdown, resulting in a score of 28-14 Scots with the extra point.

Defensive line senior Spencer Brown prevented Lake Highlands from advancing, ending the quarter with a score of 30-14 Scots.

At the halftime show, Stafford’s jersey was retired on the football field. Stafford started his football career in 2003 as the team’s quarterback.

“He had success in college and [he was] in the pros in the Super Bowl Championship [as the LA Rams’] quarterback and he led us to a state title here,” Wells said. “I was coaching here at that time. He was an incredible football player [and a] great guy.”

Stafford spoke with his family on the field as his jersey was displayed in a glass frame. 

“They made a commemorative plaque that will be in the stadium near Doak Walker and a few others that are there,” Wells said. 

The crowd that once cheered loudly became silent out of respect for Stafford. Students and families watched from the bleachers completely awestruck.

“It was really amazing,” Wide Receiver senior Luke Herring said. “Having the chance to get Stafford back down to Highland Park was really awesome and his whole family [was] there to retire his jersey. Seeing the whole stadium really packed and seeing all of those fans there to come out to see Stafford and the game was [a] really special event.”

After Stafford spoke and each team’s bands and the Belles performed, the third quarter started.

Highland Park wide receiver senior Grayson Schrank scored a touchdown 24 seconds in, but it didn’t count towards the team’s score.

Lilly was able to bring the ball to the 40 yard line and then Schrank pushed it further to the 20 yard line, ultimately leading to a touchdown by running back and slot receiver senior Jay Cox two minutes and 13 seconds into the third quarter. Schrank also received a sideline point, making the score 38-14 Scots with the extra point.

The third quarter started to drag until Lilly scored a touchdown eight minutes and three seconds into the game, leading to a score of 45-14 Scots with the extra point.

At the very last second of the third quarter, Schrank scored a touchdown, ultimately ending the third quarter with a score of 52-14 Scots with the extra point.

In the fourth quarter, offensive line senior Paul Flowers was injured and sat out for the rest of the game.

In the last 15 seconds of the game, the team defended against Lake Highlands. Lake Highlands wide receiver and defensive back Duncan Vaupel failed to catch the ball, but Lake Highlands eventually scored a touchdown in the very last second of the fourth quarter, resulting in a final score of 52-21 Scots with the extra point.

As a result of this game, the football team ranks third in 6A whereas Lake Highlands ranks seventh in 6A. The goal of winning the state championship remains prevalent for the team.

“We hope to make our way through district and become a district champion,” Wells said. “We have several tough battles left and then we’ll march through the playoffs. We know that there’ll be some really tough teams and we gotta get focused and [get] ready to play each of those one week at a time, take care of our business and we’ll reach some of the goals we set for ourselves.”

In addition to a good game plan from head coach Randy Allen to beat Lake Highlands, the community played a huge role in motivating players to achieve their best.

“The community support at that game was amazing [and] I think it was the largest crowd in Highland Park history for a home game,” cornerback senior Adam Rourke said. “Just the way the community supports us as a team, that was amazing. It was an excellent atmosphere to be part of.”