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Highland saw its hopes of a district title end with a 54-8 loss to top-ranked Ira last week.
But it didnâ€™t end its hopes to grab the No. 2 playoff spot â€” something Highland will clinch by defeating Hermleigh when the teams meet today in Highland in the regular season finale.
Highland (5-4, 1-1) had its five-game win streak halted by Ira (9-0, 2-0), which with the victory assured itself of going into next weekâ€™s six-man playoffs as the top seed in District 7, Division I.
If Highland should defeat Hermleigh (5-4, 1-1), how-ever, the Hornets will join Ira in the postseason.
Highland coach Jeff Shel-ton said Hermleigh â€” which crushed Rotan 90-41 this past Friday â€” will be a dangerous opponent but that he expects his team to be ready to play. â€śOur kids believe in our system and each other,â€ť he said. â€śOur minds are in the right place.
â€ś(Hermleigh is) a team that has gotten better each week,â€ť he said. â€śThey have a running back (Jacob Morris) who moved in from Westbrook this year who makes a big difference for them. They run and throw the ball well, have good size and speed, and play with very good intensity.â€ť
A win today would com-plete Highlandâ€™s return to prominence with its first playoff appearance since playing for a state title in 2009. â€śEveryone for both teams knows what is at stake,â€ť said Shelton.
â€śWe are going with the same recipe that has allowed us to be successful this season: play hard, physical, fundamental football, one play at a time. Weâ€™re going to have to play well to win. I see it coming down to extra point conversions and turn-overs â€” whoever converts more of the former and makes less of the latter will win the ball game.â€ť
Hermleigh won last yearâ€™s contest, 59-48, at Herm-leigh. This time Highland will have the homefield ad-vantage. â€śItâ€™s always nice to play at home, but at the end of the day itâ€™s six players on a side on a 40-by-80-yard field,â€ť Shelton said. â€śThe rest is a non-factor.â€ť
Highland will probably need a big game tonight from running back Michael Hyde, who had the lone TD against Ira last week.