Highland’s defense shined Friday night during a convincing 49-14 victory over crosstown rival Gilbert, with the host Hawks holding the visiting Tigers to just 134 yards of total offense.
The game became lopsided in the second quarter in favor of Highland (4-2), and Gilbert wasn’t able to put together a run to cut the deficit.
Highland’s success on defensive including a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned by Devin James for a touchdown.
James’ score put his team up 28-0 halfway through the second quarter. The ensuing kickoff was returned 59 yards by Gilbert’s Fontae Canada, and the Tigers (1-5) were able to score thanks to the short field.
Highland coach Pete Wahlheim was grateful his team had already opened up a large lead by that point in the contest.
“Getting off to a big lead early helps but I don’t like us taking a series off before the half,” Wahlheim said. “These are things that we’ll learn from. They figured it out at halftime.”
And it would appear the Hawks did, scoring 21 unanswered points in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Gilbert did score again in the fourth quarter, but the game was already well in hand.
The ground game was key to the Hawks’ offensive success. Senior Ryan McCord rushed 12 times in the first half for 121 yards and a touchdown, while junior Josh Chadwick had 17 touches for 160 yards, most of which came in the second half. Chadwick also found the end zone twice in the third quarter.
Highland’s passing offense wasn’t asked to do much and quarterback Blake Young didn’t complete a pass until the second half.
Aside from Canada’s explosive kickoff return, Gilbert wasn’t able to move the ball downfield against Highland’s defense. Sophomore quarterback Dane Stankiewicz did complete eight of his 11 passes, five of which were for more than 10 yards, in defeat.
Despite the convincing win, the Hawks’ coach said his team still has some work to do going forward.
“It’s great to win. Gilbert’s going to be a good football team down the road,” Wahlheim said. “We’re staring to get there. We’ve certainly got a long way to go, but I’m starting to see [the players] starting to believe a little bit.”
Highland 49, Gilbert 14
First Downs: Gilbert 7, Highland 20
Rushing: Gilbert 23-34, Highland 48-392
Passing (comp.-att.-TD-INT): Gilbert 9-20-1-1, Highland 4-9-1-0
Fumbles-lost: Gilbert 1-0, Highland 1-1
Penalties-yards: Gilbert 4-30, Highland 5-50
Gilbert 0 7 0 7 -- 14
Highland 7 21 21 0 -- 49
Highland: Gale 13 run (Miller kick)
Highland: Cook 1 run (Miller kick)
Highland: McCord 2 run (Miller kick)
Highland: James 11 INT return (Miller kick)
Gilbert: Palmer 4 pass from Stankiewicz (Carver kick)
Highland: Chadwick 7 run (Miller kick)
Highland: Brown 17 pass from Young (Miller kick)
Highland: Chadwick 25 run (Miller kick)
Gilbert: Stevenson 7 run (Carver kick)