by Kirk Dooley
The Highland Park – Tyler John Tyler game featured the greatest fourth quarter comeback in Scots history. While one of the best HP crowds in recent memory got behind the team that was down by 21 points going into the final period, there were some fans who left the game after three quarters, thinking the season was over.
They missed 12 minutes of Highland Park football at its best.
It was an incredible comeback. The John Tyler Lions had eaten the Scots’ lunch for the first three periods. They led 21-14 at the half and 35-14 after three quarters. Usually HP has a strong third quarter but last week they were outscored 14-0 and a lot of people feared the season was coming to an end.
Fortunately the HP coaches and players never thought that.
“Our guys have seen previous Highland Park teams come back and win,” said head coach Randy Allen. “We believe that there’s a constant level of expectations to be a championship team. Whatever it takes to win. Throw it all out on the field. We have strong senior leadership and we never got to the point where we lost hope.”
At the beginning of the season young Chandler Morris was given the keys to the HP offense. He had big shoes to fill after backing up a magician named John Stephen Jones. At the time I was told by coaches that Morris was as talented a field general as Jones. That has proven to be true as he led the Scots to a 13-0 record going into the quarterfinals. His dazzling fourth quarter performance last Saturday – two touchdown passes and two touchdown runs – combined with a shutdown defense, allowed the Scots to shock the Lions, who had already punched their ticket to the semifinals.
Morris’s fourth-quarter leadership brought back the glory of John Stephen Jones, Matthew Stafford, Lance McIlhenny, Scott Smith, Bobby Layne and other Highland Park great quarterbacks.
We will probably never see another HP comeback like that in our lifetimes. Unless we see it this Saturday.
The Scots face a 14-0 Denton Ryan team in the semifinals for the third year in a row.
The Raiders have a coach’s son at quarterback. Sophomore Seth Henigan beat out his older brother Ian for the position. Both are sons of head coach Dave Henigan, who spent a few years on Randy Allen’s staff at HP. Two other standouts – Billy Bowman, Jr. and Drew Sanders – are also sons of team coaches.
Ryan has lost only three games in the past four years. They lost in the playoffs to Allen in 2015, Highland Park in 2016 and Highland Park in 2017. They haven’t lost a regular season game since 2015.
What does all that mean? Nothing. This is a new year and these are new teams. Hit the re-set button.
The Ryan player to watch is Drew Sanders (#16). He’s the guy who has thrown three touchdown passes, caught five and run for seven. He also leads the team in tackles, has three interceptions, six sacks and has blocked a punt and a field goal.
I presume the Scots will humbled by their lackluster performance in the first three quarters against John Tyler. I presume their confidence will be strong after their magical comeback win.
And I presume that it would be unwise for you to leave the Ryan game until the end of the fourth quarter.
by Kirk Dooley
When Coach Randy Allen scattered mousetraps throughout the Scots locker room last week, the players either thought there was a rodent problem or they thought their coach was losing it.
As it turned out, there were no mice and Coach Allen was simply a genius.
When he called the team together he talked about their opponent, Mansfield Timberview, who the Scots had beaten 42-7 three weeks before in their final district contest. It is human nature for one to assume one can defeat an opponent one thrashed 23 days before. It is very difficult to keep football players focused and hungry when in they assume that all they have to do it show up and they’ll win.
“It’s a trap,” warned Coach Allen.
He talked to them about how Timberview had improved and was playing with confidence. They had upset their first two playoff opponents, both good teams. Their star running back, Stacy Sneed, was averaging 200 yards per game in the playoffs. The Scots had to stay focused. They had to avoid the trap.
On the third play of the game Chandler Morris hit Finnegan Corwin for a 61-yard touchdown. Three drives later the Scots were up, 24-0. Just before the end of the first quarter Corwin returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown and HP led, 31-0. The Mansfield team’s confidence was already shaken and they were ready to get on the bus and go back home.
While the offense was putting up points – 38 at half time and 52 after three quarters – the defense shut down the Wolves and forced five turnovers. Sneed finished the night with 29 yards on eight carries.
That same hunger will be imperative as the Scots face a stronger, bigger, faster John Tyler team on Saturday. The fact that John Tyler beat the snot out of a very good Frisco Lone Star team means that the Lions are peaking at the right time, just like the Scots.
They have several players who are a heartbeat away from six points at any given moment from anywhere on the field. Stopping the big plays will be the key for the Scots, who are getting pretty good at containing skill players who are faster. HP defenders must continue doing a good job of getting off their blocks.
Much of the Lions’ success against Lone Star was taking away the Rangers’ top receiver and harassing a good quarterback into completing only two out of 12 passes for the night.
Will that strategy work against Highland Park? When they double-team Corwin, the Scots have a stable of excellent receivers ready to take up the slack. And I’ll take Chandler Morris over any QB in the state.
John Tyler averaged 5.36 yards per carry on the ground in their win last week. The Scots will need to whittle that number down. The Lions’ quarterback, Devlen Woods, is a good passer and runner who is very slippery. His scrambling could be the difference in the game. The Scots have three giant mouse traps – Jack Jurgovan, Jeremy Hanes and Prince Dorbah – who could be the difference in the game if they can set a trap for him in the backfield.
by Kirk Dooley
Which Timberview team will show up this week at the Star in Frisco? Will it be the team that the Scots trounced, 42-7, just three weeks ago? Or will it be the team that shocked state-ranked The Colony, 35-30, the following week in one of the state’s biggest first-round upsets?
Last week in the second round Timberview proved that it is no fluke when the Wolves eliminated Magnolia West, 45-28, to set up this Saturday’s regional semifinal tilt that features two teams from the same district.
They say that when one door closes, another one opens. That’s what the Wolves experienced when injuries at quarterback forced them to dig deep into their bag of tricks as they entered the playoffs with an unimpressive 5-5 record. They took their speedy running back, Stacy Sneed, and switched him to wildcat quarterback.
Why didn’t they think of that before?
The Colony Cougars did not know what hit them. There was no film on Sneed taking direct snaps from the center and there was no stopping Sneed in the wildcat formation. He ran for 246 yards and three touchdowns and personally snapped the Cougars’ eight-game winning streak.
Last weekend Magnolia West knew what was coming and they still couldn’t stop Sneed. He carried the ball 23 times for 197 yards, averaging 8.57 yards per carry. Then when a real quarterback came in to throw the ball, Sneed caught five passes for 93 yards. He accounted for three touchdowns. When Magnolia West focused on stopping Sneed, the other Timberview running back, Montaye Dawson, ran for 151 yards, including your standard 92-yard touchdown run.
Three weeks ago I said that the Scots were walking into a wolf trap when they faced Timberview.
I meant this week.
I don’t think the 12-0 Scots will relax because they are playing a 7-5 team that they beat by 35 points three weeks ago. The cards have been reshuffled and Timberview is playing with a high degree of confidence.
My favorite statistic from the Nov. 8 HP-Timberview game is that the Scots defense held Sneed to 19 yards on five carries while HP backup running back Hunter Heath also had five carries and he went for 116 yards.
It is a safe bet that HP will face a Timberview team that showcases a dazzling, hard-to-stop Stacy Sneed.
But which HP team will show up at the Star? Last week’s first half Scots or last week’s second-half Scots? Against College Station the second half HP defense looked like a state championship contender.
The Scots will be ready for whatever Timberview throws at them. To win this game and to qualify for the state quarterfinals the Highland Park players must stop thinking about Frisco Lone Star and start concentrating on becoming fast enough to stop Stacy Sneed.
Like they did three weeks ago.
Below find the UIL Playoff Bracket. Scroll down to Region 2 to find HP v Mansfield Timberview (G51).
2018 Football State Championships 2018 Football Conference 5A D1
by Kirk Dooley
It doesn’t happen very often but here we are, with two defending state champions facing each other in the playoffs.
The Scots are the (two-time) defending state champs in 5A Division I. The Cougars are the defending state champs in 5A Division II and this season they moved up to Division I. College Station beat the invincible Aledo Bearcats in last year’s Div. II finals, 20-19, in a game where Aledo missed its final two PATs. Sure could have used those two points when the final whistle blew. Although the College Station-Aledo battle was one of the state’s best state championship games in recent years, the Scots’ 53-49 win over Manvel goes down as the most exciting Texas high school championship game in history.
Of course, once you get to this point, it doesn’t matter who won what last year. It doesn’t matter what your record is. What is important is that each of these two teams knows how to win. The players all have the championship mentality that is the wild card in big games.
The Cougars feature a slippery quarterback named Brandon Williams (#17) who has thrown for 1,718 yards and run for 248 more. He has accounted for 28 touchdowns, which is a few more than Finnegan Corwin himself. While defenses are guessing whether Williams will throw it or run it, he hands it off to Kolbe Cashion (#20) a hard runner who racked up 135 yards on the ground in last week’s 41-38 win over Poteet.
But on Saturday afternoon in Waco train your binoculars on the Cougar’s all-state defensive back, #16, Brandon Joseph. If there’s one Cougar who can make the difference in the game by himself, it is Mr. Joseph. Just ask Dr. Ralph H. Poteet. Last week Joseph ran back a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and then ran a punt back 68 yards for another. His Cougars won by three points. Had Joseph missed the team bus, the Scots might be playing Dr. Poteet’s Pirates at the Star in Frisco this weekend.
What is Coach Randy Allen’s overview of College Station Cougars? “They are very competitive, they score a lot of points and they are used to winning.”
What is my overview? “Don’t kick it to number 16.”
I presume that the Highland Park coaches have seen film of College Station’s district game against Lufkin, which trounced the Cougars, 35-3. I say just do whatever Lufkin did.
On the other hand, we could very well face Lufkin ourselves if we advance in the playoffs.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s a long bus ride back from Waco and the hopefully the Scots will cruise home with something to be thankful for.
by Kirk Dooley
So the Scots thrashed Mansfield Timberview last Thursday, 42-7, and go into the playoffs 10-0 and ranked second in state in 5A. How is this team different that the previous two HP teams, both state champs?
The first thing that comes to mind is that there has been no drop off at quarterback since John Stephen Jones became an HP legend and then left to call the Hogs. He left huge shoes to fill and Chandler Morris has filled them well and has the chance to make those shoes even bigger.
This year’s version of the Scots is 10-0 going into the playoffs, something that neither of the past two state champs did. There’s some swagger in that but I still believe that the 2016 loss to Wylie East in the last district game forced those Scots to hit a re-set button and enter the playoffs on fire.
Last year’s team was the defending state champions and that can make a difference when your team walks out onto the field. This year’s team is a two-time defending state champion, which can unnerve some players and motivate others. They know they have to come at Highland Park with their A-game and the Scots have learned to compete with a giant target on their backs.
Injuries have decimated the Scots the past three years but the next man up has been impressive each time he steps into the game. Depth is Highland Park’s 12th Man.
And this team has been battle-tested. Of the 10 teams they’ve beaten this season, six are in the playoffs and there’s a good chance they could see Frisco Lone Star, Mansfield Legacy or Lancaster later in the playoffs.
Independence is 6-4 and has an solid quarterback in sophomore Braylon Braxton (#12), who has thrown for almost 1,400 yards and run for more than 500 more. He’s got 21 touchdowns on his resume. The Knights also have a punishing 1,000-yard rusher in Logan Brungardt (#7). Those are the two Knights to contain.
On defense Independence boasts strong middle linebacker Jalen Freeman (#21) and fast free safety Princeton Ferguson, who both lead the team in tackles. Defensive backs Kendrick Price (#23) and John McGraw (#14) have three interceptions each. Defensive ends Ashton Larza (#44) and Colby Blatnik (#22) create pressure from the edges.
The only common opponent the Scots and the Knights have faced this season is Frisco Lone Star, who beat the Knights, 27-6. The Scots defeated Lone Star, 10-7, on a clutch field goal on the last play of the game.
Going into the playoffs the Scots are without linebackers James Lightbourn or Andrew Bonnet, both of whom are out for the season. The next man up, Cal Hirschey, is also injured and will be out for a couple of games. Colby Hopkins moves back to inside linebacker and Gus Vincent steps up on the outside, joining Hopkins, Chris Read and Patrick Turner as starting linebackers. Cornerback Hudson Clark is hurt and is not expected to play this week. Sam Sloan fills in for him. Punter Andrew Stanzel is back from a minor injury and he hopes to blow up a punt return man if he gets the opportunity.