Outright conference champions!
Let that sink in.
Not since 1999 has Highland football stood alone at the top of its conference.
Highland didn't give the Wildcats a chance to think spoiler, as the Rebels scored three times in the first quarter on their way to a 50-8 victory at Trumann on Nov. 3, to conclude the 3-4A regular season with a 5-1 record, 8-1 overall.
"To be honest with you, I didn't think anybody would do that this year, with everybody being such an even conference. For us to have that outright championship means even more," said Rebel Head Coach Spencer Hill. "We've played well in the games we needed to play well."
Highland will host fifth-seed Nashville (4-6, 3-4) from south Arkansas' 7-4A conference, Nov. 11, at Rebel Memorial Field on what will surely be a chilly night.
"We want to be cold when we're playing, because that means you're playing deep (into the playoffs)," explained Hill.
The Rebels scored on seven of eight drives, including their opening drive which went 63 yards on two plays, ending with junior quarterback Sterling Stowers' 30-yard touchdown sweep.
Jordan Brewer started the game with a 28-yard run.
Stowers' first pass to Michael Copeland was jarred loose by a Wildcat defender, but a roughing-the-passer penalty gave the ball to Highland at the Trumann 20.
A holding penalty negated a Stowers to Cody Odell TD pass, forcing the ball back to the 30.
Ethan Hoppe added the PAT to make the score 7-0.
Copeland stopped the initial Trumann drive by intercepting A. J. Winningham at the Rebel 32, but a block-in-the-back penalty caused Highland to start from its own 7-yard line.
Senior Garrett Sublett took a quick sideline pass from Stowers to the 37-yard line, and Brewer had runs of six and 36 yards to get into Wildcat territory.
Brewer finished the drive with a 14-yard scamper and a 3-yard scoring run.
The 2-point conversion try was no-good, leaving the score at 13-0.
Wildcat running backs Quentin Buchanan and Josh Evans bullied their way to the Highland 20, but a personal foul and a false start, along with a Reb sack on Winningham, stalled the drive.
After nearly being intercepted on first down, Stowers hit Hoppe for a 28-yard gain on third down.
A 6-yard run by Brewer and a 7-yard run by Stowers setup the Reb QB's 20-yard sweep for his second TD. Once again, the conversion was stopped short, but the lead was extended to 19-0 with a minute left in the first quarter.
Even though Trumann fumbled, but recovered, on the first play, they put together their best possession of the game by driving 75 yards on 12 plays for a Winningham 4-yard run, and a Buchanan conversion to cut the Rebel lead to 19-8.
"They've got a couple of good running backs who gave us some fits," said Hill. "Coach White does a good job and we knew they would fight hard till the end."
Attempting an onside kick, the kick looked more like a top as it spun back to the Trumann 41 for a 1-yard kickoff.
Three incomplete passes and a holding call forced Highland to give the ball back to the Cats on downs at the Trumann 14.
The Wildcats would be forced to punt four plays later; a short 24-yarder, giving the Reb offense great field position at the Trumann 40.
Moving efficiently, Stowers swept right for nine, Brewer swept left for 19 and up-the-middle for another seven, before Stowers weaved his way seven yards for the score.
Stowers hit tight end Kyle Brison crossing in the back of end zone for the conversion and a 27-8 lead.
The Reb defense forced another three-and-out, and Highland moved 58 yards in three plays.
Ethan Hoppe caught a 19-yard Stowers pass along the left sideline, Sublett caught an 18-yard pass along the right sideline and Copeland caught an over-the-shoulder 21-yard Stowers pass in the end zone. Brewer burst in for the conversion and a 35-8 halftime advantage.
Every now and then, special teams coach John Katrosh will allow for a booming kickoff instead of the typical pooch kicks. Jace Powell sent his kick to the 8 and the coverage team stopped the returner at the Wildcat 19 to force a long drive.
The Trumann offense managed two first downs, but had an incomplete pass on fourth down at their own 43.
Four running plays later, a 7-yard Brewer sweep, a 27-yard Stowers rush and two 3-yard Brewer runs produced another touchdown.
Stowers found Sublett for the conversion and a 43-8 score.
Highland's final drive was led by freshman quarterback Avery Johnson, starting at the Rebel 29.
Torre Sutton picked up 13 on first down, Lloyd Clouse pushed his way for nine and Johnson got the second first down.
Dalton Woods had two runs for seven yards and Johnson ran through a large hole for a 23-yard TD. Hoppe's PAT completed the scoring.
Brewer led the Rebel rushers with 11 carries for 135 yards.
Stowers added 112 yards on eight rushes, but was just six-of-15 for 133.
"We dropped some passes and missed some guys. I don't know if it's the cold weather, but we've got to shore that up," said Hill. "If we want to practice on Thanksgiving, if we want to make a deep run, which is some of our goals, we're going to have to be more efficient in the passing game."
Hoppe had two catches for 47 yards and Sublett caught two for 35.