Just as the celebration of the Lake Highlands Wildcats’ perfect 10-0 season and District 11-5A title subsided last month, fans began wondering about a potential state title.
Lake Highlands coach Jerry Gayden has a definitive answer: “Yes, we can win. With the kids that we’ve got, we always have a chance,” Gayden says.
The Wildcats, in their season finale last month, ripped Berkner High School 49-13 to claim sole possession of the District 11-5A title and finish with a perfect 10-0 record.
“I couldn’t be any happier or more pleased, especially for the kids,” Gayden says.
Ranked No. 1 in The Dallas Morning News’ Class 5A poll, Lake Highlands must win five games to reach the finals of the state playoffs, set for Dec. 23.
The team advanced in the first game of the bi-district round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs, squeaking by Garland’s Lakeview High School. Tied at 34-34, the Wildcats won because of a 6-5 edge in penetrations.
Led by quarterback Marcus Stiggers, Lake Highlands is considered one of the top 5A rushing offenses in the area. Stiggers’ supporting offensive cast, according to Gayden, includes senior center Jeff Barnett, fullback Juanapha Gipson, and receivers Terry Snow and Kasey Foreman.
The Wildcats, equipped with a dominant defensive line – including such stand-outs as defensive end Craig Phelps, free safety Steve Holley and linebackers Reed Heim, Brett Sawyer and Parker Lowe – allowed only two first-half touchdowns during the season.
Stiggers, known for his near-perfect passing and explosive returns, is being recruited by at least half-a-dozen Division 1A universities, including Baylor, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Tennessee and Florida.
“Marcus is a great athlete with exceptional talent, but he couldn’t have done it without a supporting cast,” Gayden says.
Gayden, who was named head coach last spring, said the season was successful due to the existing coaching staff, the players’ desire to stick to goals they established at the beginning of the season and the support from the community.
“All of these things go a long way when you want to be a success,” he says.