SPARTA — The Highland football team is back in a familiar place. The Scots are returning to the state playoffs for the fifth straight year, and are ready to take the next step. That journey begins Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Division IV Region 15 quarterfinals when the Scots host Portsmouth West.
“It’s still really exciting. Every year is unique,” said Highland coach Chad Carpenter. “From the way we started the year to the way we finished is remarkable. To see the kids develop over the course of the year and turn into a really good football team is enjoyable for me. Each year is really special. It’s really exciting, especially since we get to host another game.”
Even though the Scots have made it a habit to be playing in Week 11, this is only the second time they have hosted a game. They hosted Genoa Area in 2007, but have been on the road the last two years. Being able to host the first game is huge to Carpenter and the Highland community.
“Just to stay in that routine, play in our backyard. We really try to put extra emphasis on that. That’s really good for us and for the community as well. That opportunity to play at home is special,” Carpenter said.
Highland (8-2) finished fourth in Region 19 just barely ahead of Portsmouth West (8-2), which finished tied for second in the Southern Ohio Conference. The Senators lost their leading rusher (Trevon Pendleton, 954 yards) in Week 8 and lost their last game of the season, but bring in a big, experienced ballclub to Highland. They run the Wing-T just like Highland and do a good job distributing the ball, rushing for more than 3,000 yards on the year.
Junior running back Jerrod Bricker was second to Pendleton in yards gained over the year, picking up just under 600 for the season (597). Junior Kyle Auger (463) and senior Kyle Locher (384) have also gained some big yards over the year.
But, the key to the Senators is their huge offensive line.
Shawn Caudill (5-foot-10, 205 pounds), Josh Cooper (6-2, 220), Conway Cooper (6-3, 260) and Cody Bricker (6-1, 285) anchor a line that’s been pushing opponents around all year.