To be sure, all Mansfield Lake Ridge wanted for Christmas was a football state championship, and there was nothing make-believe about its chances with an advance to the state quarterfinals.
The Eagles more than showed they belonged with Class 5A’s elite by taking Division I’s defending champion and state’s ninth-ranked team to the brink before finally running out of time in a 37-35 loss to Dallas Highland Park on Friday night at AT&T Stadium.
John Stephen Jones, who has made a name for himself other than being some sort of heir to the throne of the Dallas Cowboys, had two touchdowns rushing and 211 yards passing, going 19 for 28.
Paxton Alexander had 122 yards rushing and a touchdown on 19 carries.
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Matteo Cordray kicked field goals of 21, 25 and finally 30 yards with 7:59 remaining that represented the game-winner for the Scots (13-1).
Highland Park (13-1) advanced to the Class 5A Division I state semifinal and will play either Denton Ryan or Lubbock Coronado, both undefeated, at 9 p.m. next Friday at AT&T Stadium.
Lake Ridge finished its season (12-2). Ultimately four turnovers proved too costly for the Eagles.
Lake Ridge quarterback Jason Bean, a North Texas pledge, and Malik Knowles made their last high school game a memorable one.
Bean, a North Texas high school pledge, and Knowles connected for three touchdowns, including a 20-yarder that gave the Eagles their first lead at the end of the third quarter.
Bean was 17 for 26 for 337 yards. His TD passes to Knowles were 12 and 13 yards in the in a busy first half that featured 52 points and the feel of a table-tennis match pitting world-class competitors.
Senior T.J. Graham had four catches for 104 yards.
The Scots scored on five of their six first-half possessions. Jones had two touchdown runs of 1 yard each.
Lake Ridge fell behind 10-0 in the first six minutes of the game, but rallied behind two TDs passes from Bean to Knowles, the first a 13-yarder, capping an eight play, 77-yard drive. The other was a 12-yarder that cut the Eagles’ deficit to 24-21.
Down 31-21 at half, Lake Ridge needed second-half stops, and got them. Three, in fact, holding the Scots to only six points in the second half.
The most important stop was a gritty one by the defense, holding Highland Park to three points after the Scots drove 16 plays to the Eagles’ 12.
That was more than consolation when Lake Ridge seized momentum with a 75-yard scoring drive in 22 seconds.
On the second play of the drive, Bean and Knowles, who finished with five receptions for 118 yards, hooked up for a 49-yard gain. Two plays later the pair had a 20-yard scoring connection and a 37-35 lead to start the fourth.