The Highland Park High School football team struggled to move the ball on offense and stopped themselves with penalties in losing a non-conference game to Keyport, 49-14, on Friday night at Jay H. Dackelman field in Highland Park.
“There were a lot of mental mistakes on our part,” Owls head coach Rich McGlynn said. “We are a very young football team and that is something we work on every day. We’ll improve going forward.”
The Owls committed six first-half penalties and trailed Keyport 28-6 heading into the lockerroom.
The Red Raiders struck first, scoring on a 35-yard pass from Alex Thomson to Jeff Sheard at the 9:44 mark in the first quarter.
Highland Park answered the score immediately on an 80-yard kickoff return by Nasir Boykins.
The Boykins return would prove to be the only points for the Owls until senior quarterback Andy Powell hit wide receiver Tyree Aultman for a 31-yard touchdown with 3:31 left in the game.
Highland Park had problems slowing down the Keyport offense led by Thomson, allowing three passing touchdowns and four more on the ground.
McGlynn stayed positive despite big loss, and even saw some things he liked that the Owls could build on goin into their matchup with Middlesex next week.
“I saw a lot of great things out there. First off the attitude of my kids is very positive,” McGlynn said. “They rally around each other, they don’t quit and I saw glimpses of some really good things. I saw our backs run extremely hard and at times the line did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage.”
The Owls are a young team with three freshman starters on defense, but the size of Keyport’s Thomson 6-foot0five, combined with the speed of receiver Jeff Sheard, proved to be too much to overcome.
Highland Park tallied up over 10 penalties, most of them coming on the offensive side of the ball as false starts or illegal formations.
Powell finished with 59 yards passing and one touchdown; Boykins ran for 20 yards on 4 carries to go along with his explosive kickoff return touchdown.
“We’re going to practice hard every day and try to keep the intensity we had towards the second half ,” Powell said. “We’re going to see what we did right and what we did wrong and we’re going to fix it.”