Deonte Dean runs for a touchdown. Courtesy of Mike Duhon Photography.

When Lake Highlands High School prepared to face Highland Park Friday in game one of district play, football prognosticators called the Wildcats underdogs. But Cory Campbell, in his first year as head coach, has pulled from the playbook of a fictional sports figure to lead his team. With Ted Lasso’s refrain on T-shirts and hashtags, he has encouraged his players to #Believe in themselves and each other, no matter how many obstacles seem to block their path.

Sign up for our newsletter!

* indicates required

By Saturday afternoon, Wildcats had the entire Metroplex believing.

But wait. Saturday, you say? Don’t the Cats play under Friday night lights? Sit down, friend. Have I got a story for you.

Lake Highlands kicked off thirty minutes late Friday night due to oppressive heat at Wildcat Stadium then scored on the game’s first snap. Senior Tripp Holley threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Miron Magee, and Deonte Dean rushed for two touchdowns, putting the Cats up 20-7 by the end of the first quarter. A field goal and a touchdown pass to Tripp Marshall brought LH ahead 30-13 at halftime. That’s when lightning struck. Literally.

After seven weeks of no rain in the area, a freak storm sent spectators scrambling out of the grandstands, and referees stopped the game until lightning and thunder had cleared. When play resumed, Tripp Holley and Tripp Marshall teamed up for another touchdown, and Deonte Dean scored again. The Wildcats led 44-27. Then lightning flashed again.

With 8:29 remaining in the fourth quarter and the clock approaching midnight, the game was halted. Referees declared that play would resume at 2 p.m. Saturday. Coach Campbell asked Wildcat fans to return and cheer his team. At kickoff, the temperature gauge read 93 degrees with the sun directly overhead, but LHHS fans poured through the turnstiles.

The question: Would HPHS coaches, led by athletic director Lonnie Jordan, former head coach of the Wildcats, be able to adjust their strategy and engineer a last-minute win? Could the Wildcats hold on for eight and a half more minutes? The answer: Not only did the Wildcats win by a final score of 51-41, but Deonte Dean set a new school record. With 376 yards and 31 touches, he became the school’s all-time single game rushing champion. He averaged 12 yards per attempt and is currently the area’s leading rusher with 800 yards in three games.

Dean is Sports Day’s offensive player of the week and is one of five Metroplex nominees for their Texas High School Football Hero Award. He’s up against Kendrick Jones of Crandall, Caleb Williams of Crowley, Josh Bell of Euless Trinity and Chance Robbins of Frisco Centennial. You may vote online here once per hour until 8 a.m. Thursday. He’s also one of ten players from across the state nominated for Dave Campbell Football’s Player of the Week. You may vote online here.

So, what’s next for the Wildcats?

Lake Highlands (2-1) plays Jesuit (2-1) next Friday night at Jesuit’s Postell Stadium. Tickets will soon be available online here.

Players shower Coach Cory Campbell after the win over Highland Park. Courtesy Mike Duhon Photography.