Opening night did not start how Highland Park wanted, but the middle part was pretty good.
The Giants scored 28 straight points in about 16 minutes to trample an early 10-0 deficit and hold off visiting Leyden, 28-25, on Friday, Aug. 26, on Wolters Field in Highland Park.
“I think it was just getting everyone to calm down and focus,” first-year coach Anthony Kopp said. “Those first games are always so exciting and (you’re) nervous and everything like that, so just getting settled into the flow of the game.
Quarterback David Finfer — and some luck — helped in that regard.
The Giants recovered a muffed punt deep in Leyden territory, and on their first offense play from there, the junior QB found senior Emmett Pulte for a 40-yard touchdown reception to get the home team on the scoreboard going into intermission.
“That touchdown right before half was huge for us. … It was a great jumpstart for us,” Kopp said.
The momentum continued after halftime, as Finfer (10 of 22, 157 yards, 3 TDs) and junior Nick Blumer quickly connected for a 17-yard scoring strike to give Highland Park a 14-7 lead.
Eight minutes later, Ezra Kornberg took a screen pass from Finfer 43 yards to the end zone, and Blumer added a defensive touchdown — a 45-yard interception return — to finish the Giants scoring early in the fourth quarter.
“He was just being a heads-up player,” Kopp said of Blumer’s big play. “He saw a screen play going and jumped it.”
Leyden did not pack its bags, however. The Eagles scored twice in six minutes to get within three points, 28-25, and put the pressure on Highland Park.
But the Giants finished off the clock and the Eagles to start 1-0.
“I’m just happy to get the win,” Kopp said. “I’m very proud of how our guys played. I loved how they kept fighting against a tough Leyden team.”
Pulte added an interception for Highland Park, while linebacker Tyler Glezer finished with nine tackles, including a tackle for loss. Blumer and DJ Robinson had one fumble recovery apiece.
Next up for Highland Park is a home matinee on Saturday, Sept. 3, against Hubbard, which lost its opener 47-0 against Grayslake Central.
Against the Eagles, the Giants struggled to run the ball, gaining just 57 yards on 15 carries. Kopp thinks Highland Park can get Nikko Rosenbloom and the running attack on track.
“We want to focus on a better start and getting our running game going,” he said. ” … I think it’s just reps, focusing on the line and getting them some work together. (Rosenbloom) is a guy just like everybody else; he needs one good run and he’s just going to go.”
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