Having accomplished something no other Highland football team has done, the Huskies hope to build on the legacy this year’s senior class has built.
Highland won a playoff game for the first time in school history this season and finished with an 8-3 record.
“The first playoff win in the school feels pretty special to be a part of,” Highland co-head coach Scott Morel said.
The school had been part of a playoff run previously when it shared a program with Lone Tree and reached the championship game in 1997 and lost in the first round in 2001, but playing strictly as Highland had not produced a win in two tries. That changed this year when the Huskies traveled to Durant and defeated the Wildcats despite losing to that same team earlier in the year.
The 1987 team lost in the first round to Center Point 34-0. Center Point lost in the semifinals in overtime.
The 2012 team lost to BGM 24-17. BGM won its next two games 23-0 and 28-13 before losing in the semifinals.
Highland co-head coach Joe Donovan credited the seniors with creating a new atmosphere after last year’s 2-7 season.
“It was tremendous to completely turn the season around,” Morel said.
“When we scrimmaged Louisa-Muscatine (before the season), I knew there was something different about us,” Donovan said. “I knew it could be a special year, but the seniors have to get the credit because they created that. It is not because we lifted different or practiced different. We didn’t do anything different. The kids wanted something different. I have to thank them for that.”
Of the 33 players out for the team, nine are seniors.
“The seniors, I cannot say enough about,” Morel said. “They were tremendous leaders, hard workers and a great group of young men.”
The seniors are Jordan Sosa, Cory Stewart, Trey Lasek, Brady Hahn, Dan Burton, Geoff Streb, Jack Baker, Brody Burton, Jose Cardenas and Bradley Rodgers.
“These kids have broken down barriers that the school has never experienced before,” Donovan said. “When they are older and having kids, this is something they can look back on and be proud of. As time goes on, they will realize what they have done for their school, their community and this program.”
Morel was impressed with how the public rallied around the students.
“It was great to have a buzz around the community,” Morel said. “One of the greatest things to see was on our way to Durant for the playoff game, the people lined up with signs and waving to the team.”
Morel sensed something after the last-minute win in the third game of the season, a victory achieved on a field goal over a ranked team.
“I think after the Lynnville-Sully game, I really thought this could be pretty special,” Morel said. Lynville-Sully made the playoffs and lost to Hudson 44-22 in the first round.
The season was even more special because of the support of all those associated with the program
“I would like to thank the community and parents,” Morel said. “I’m also really happy to be a part of a great staff.”
Assistant coaches were Patrek Tufts, Harold O’Brien, Clint Colbert and Mitchell Huntington. Manager was Dakota Longbine. Jacob Allen was in charge of video and the ball boy was Peyton Yeggy.
“Hopefully, we have establiched something so the kids don’t have to wonder,” Donovan said. “The kids know what this feels like and we can reload with the kids we have and go again. We will adjust things to the next group of kids and keep doing this. That has to be the goal of the program now. We want to be competitive every year.”
“The future looks bright for us, returning five starters from both sides of the ball,” Morel said.