After a couple of down years, only five Rebels made it to their senior season.
Will Edmondson, Colt Johnson, Lucas Gibson, Jake Horton and Scott Gatewood were rewarded for their persistence with a winning season, 6-4, and a berth in the 4A playoffs.
"I appreciate those five. Those five stuck with us and worked hard, put the sweat in, weight lifting and all that. They see it paying off eventually," said Rebel Head Coach Clay Wiggins. "It never is what you want when it's the last game that you play in. We've all been there at one point. But I appreciate their work."
Although the end was not as great as hoped, since the fifth-seeded Rebels lost to the top-seeded Bulldogs 46-6 in Star City on Nov. 12, at least the path has been defined for a young Highland team.
"I'm hoping that rubs off on the sophomores and juniors that are out here. They see that you get to the playoffs, but it takes a little more intensity and effort in the playoffs," explained Wiggins. "I hope it makes the sophomore and juniors hungry next year, and not just be satisfied in getting to the playoffs, but try to advance."
Highland's loss to Star City was a carbon copy of its three conference losses.
The Rebel defense gave up several big plays for touchdowns and the offense struggled to gain yards and stay on the field.
Sophomore Xavier Weiand gave the Rebel fans an early cheer when he picked off Bulldog quarterback Ty Towers on Star City's first offensive play.
The Rebels would punt for a second time.
On their second offensive play, Towers rushed for an 81-yard touchdown. Lavonte Gardner added the 2-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
The Rebel offense gained no yards and punted.
Star City drove 81 yards on eight plays for a Towers to Reshod Davis 18-yard TD pass and a 15-0 lead.
On their next drive, Demetri Goins scored from three yards out.
The Rebel defense forced a Bulldog punt to setup Highland's best drive in the first half.
Getting the ball at their-own 43, the Reb offense drove all the way to the Star City 3-yard line.
On the drive, quarterback Sterling Stowers hit Ben Markway for 32 yards and again for 15.
The Bulldogs had a facemask and pass interference penalties on this drive to assist the Rebels.
Highland attempted a fake field goal on fourth-and-goal, but lost 13 yards.
Star City picked up 19 yards on a Towers to Davondrick Shelton pass and then Goins found the corner for a 65-yard score to make it 27-0.
Rebel lineman Cody LaCount recovered a Bulldog fumble at the Highland 11.
Two plays later, Stowers threw a pick-six to Brayden James to extend the lead to 33-0 with two minutes left in the half.
Star City took the opening drive of the second half 67 yards for a Towers to Hosia Rochelle 32-yard touchdown.
Austin McGhee's PAT made the score 40-0.
The Rebels gave up the ball on downs on their next possession to setup a Goins 69-yard TD rush on first down. Horton returned the kickoff to the Rebel 37 and Stowers picked up 37 yards on four carries before finding Michael Copeland on a 5-yard scoring pass with 10 minutes to go in the game. Ethan Hoppe's PAT was blocked. Gatewood lead Highland with 61 yards on 15 carries. Stowers was 5 of 17 for 74 yards and added 51 yards on 15 rushes. Star City will face 3-4A foe Trumann in the second round.