When Cooper jumped out to an early 15-point lead, it looked like Cougars were going to blow Highlands out for the second straight opening night.
To say this year’s game was a lot more exciting would be a major understatement.
The teams combined for six touchdowns in a 12:07 span to start the second half and Highlands avenged its 2015 loss to the Jaguars, 52-42 on Friday.
Down 21-6 in the opening minutes of the second quarter, Highlands ran off the next three TDs to take the lead.
A fumble recovery in the end zone cut the Jaguars’ lead to nine, and the Bluebirds’ Jared Pulsfort bulled in on a 1-yard run just before halftime for the first of his three touchdowns to make it a three-point game.
Brady Gosney put the Bluebirds ahead 24-21 with a 60-yard run just 42 seconds into the third quarter.
Cooper answered with a TD minutes later, but Gosney scored from 3 yards out with 4:40 left in that frame to put Highlands up, 31-28.
Cooper's Justin Schlarman took in a 43-yard run, the fourth score of the stanza, for a 35-31 lead.
Then it was the Bluebirds’ turn again, and Grant Murray made it 38-35 on a 22-yard rush with 21 seconds left in the third quarter.
Cooper fumbled on its ensuing possession, and Pulsfort ran it into the end zone from 35 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter, giving Highlands 14 points in a 28-second span and extending the Bluebirds’ lead to 10.
The Jaguars pulled within three again, 45-42, but Pulsfort sealed it with a late 32-yard run.
Murray led Highlands in rushing with 161 yards on 25 carries, Pulsfort gained 131, rushing 18 times, and Gosney ran it nine times for 71 yards. Murray and Gosnet ended the night with two touchdowns apiece,
The final yardage was nearly identical, with the Bluebirds holding the edge by nine, 488-479.
Highlands rushed for 367 and Cooper – which won this matchup, 37-13 last year – ran for 241 and passed for 238.
Highlands travels to Alexandria to play in-county rival Campbell County next weekend.
The Jaguars open their home schedule against Newport Central Catholic.