Highland High’s football team wrote another chapter to its storybook season Friday, using stingy defense and timely turnovers to post a 32-18 victory over Paramount in a Southern Section Division II quarterfinal at Quartz Hill High.
Highland (9-3), tri-champions of the Golden League with Antelope Valley and Palmdale, benefited from four Paramount turnovers to pull off the upset over the No. 2-seeded team. Highland will face Ayala in a semifinal Dec. 7.
Camy Smith completed seven of 18 passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon McElvaine rushed seven times for 76 yards and broke six tackles en route to a 47-yard touchdown for a 32-18 lead with 2 minutes 38 seconds left.
“I had nowhere to go,” McElvaine said. “But I was determined to score and the line kept on blocking until I got outside.”
Despite being outgained 316 yards to 38 in the first half, the Bulldogs defense came up with big plays and clung to a 12-12 tie at halftime. Casey Falkengren and Barron Gardner stopped Clyde Hubbard on fourth-and-three at the Highland 24 early in the second quarter and Will Demps recovered a fumble to snuff out another Pirate drive at the Bulldog 25.
Demps scored his 15th touchdown of the season on an 88-yard kickoff return for the Bulldogs’ first score on the final play of the first quarter.
Highland drove 67 yards in 11 plays to tie it, 12-12, capped by a 19-yard pass play to Beau Richardson from Smith with 3:51 remaining in the first half.
The Pirates (9-3) ran the ball on 39 of 40 first-half plays, scoring on runs of 13 yards by Danny McMullen and 28 yards by Hubbard to take a 12-0 first-quarter lead. Both two-point conversion attempts failed.
“I told my kids at halftime, the first half doesn’t mean a lick,” Highland Coach Lin Parker said.
“We believed in ourselves all season, and I told them not to stop now.”
Highland took a 19-18 lead on Smith’s seven-yard touchdown pass to Michael DeLeon and Derek Brown’s conversion kick with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
Brown ended the Bulldogs’ next two drives with a pair 45-yard field goals to increase Highland’s lead, 25-18.
With the exception of McMullen’s 67-yard touchdown run early in the second half for an 18-13 lead, Highland’s defense limited Paramount to just 46 yards of offense in the second half and did not allow a pass reception.
Manuel Ortiz intercepted a Terryl Soolefai pass at Highland’s 37 to set up McElvaine’s game-clincher.
McMullen rushed for a game-high 190 yards in 13 carries and Paramount outgained the Bulldogs, 371-180.