by Kirk Dooley
The Scots roll into the second round of the playoffs against the Magnolia Bulldogs this Thursday night at AT&T Stadium. Many Highland Park fans will not be familiar with Magnolia, a school the Scots have never faced.
First of all, Chip Gaines is not the coach.
The town of Magnolia, located about four hours south of Dallas, is in Montgomery County. The Woodlands and Conroe are also in Montgomery County, as is the best-named Texas town, Cut and Shoot.
Magnolia High School has 1,990 students and the population of Magnolia is 1,400, so how does that work? I guess they just do math differently down there.
The Bulldogs are 8-3 for the season and came in third in district 8-5A Div. I behind Lufkin and College Station. The Magnolia head coach, Craig Martin, was the offensive coordinator at Temple when the Scots faced the Wildcats in the 2016 state championship match, better known as the Turner Coxe Safety Game.
Magnolia has one of the biggest and best offensive lines we’ll see this season. The five guys on the O-line are: 6-5, 260 – 6-2, 280 – 6-5, 290 – 5-11, 260 – 6-6, 265. Three are committed to D-1 schools.
I have a family connection to Magnolia. My brother Craig has a nephew, Derek Bowman, a left tackle who is committed to Dana Holgorsen at the University of Houston. I’d like to say that Derek got his athleticism from my side of the family, since Craig was a standout on the Highland Park Buck-Buck team in 1969. But Derek’s dad punted for Texas Tech and his brother Reed is a punter at Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs use that O-line to pound the ball up the middle, right between the tackles. Running back Mitch Hall is a 5’9” battering ram who rushed for 208 yards against Poteet in the Bulldogs’ 34-14 win last Friday. Earlier in the season Hall ran for 230 yards against College Station.
The Scots are happy to have Henry Hagenbuch back from an injury. The offense is averaging 54 points per game and will be at full strength with Hagenbuch back at his right tackle position. The HP defense has been playing well and is holding opponents to 17 points per game. Magnolia is averaging twice that so we’ll see who wins that battle.
With some sophomores being brought up for the playoffs, we have two sets of brothers taking the field together for the first time. Senior DB Christian Wright welcomes his LB brother, George, to varsity and junior OL Will Gibson is now joined by brother Grant, also an offensive lineman. The Magnolia game will fade from our memories as time marches on but this will be a day these two sets of brothers will remember for the rest of their lives.
Magnolia will try to win this game between the tackles. And the Scots can’t score if they don’t have the ball.
by Kirk Dooley
Wanna see some magic? Watch wizard Randy Allen draw up a play to score on the first play of the game.
Using a solid offensive line, just have your Elite 11 quarterback to hand the ball to this 5’6”, 145-lb. motorized humming bird and watch as he scampers 75 yards for a touchdown before the National Anthem is over.
And that was only the beginning for Hunter Heath last Friday. He gained 240 yards running the ball and 96 more in the air as his four touchdowns helped seal another district championship for the Scots. It wasn’t just another good day at the shop. This was statistically the best performance by a Highland Park running back in decades.
I believe Stephen Dieb holds the HP record for most yard gained in a game but he didn’t have 96 yards receiving. I still have the calculator I needed to keep up with Paxton Alexander’s total yards. He reminded me of Mark Marynick who reminded old timers of Doak Walker’s grandfather. Some sportswriters said the original Doak was the best running back ever to play football, but even he couldn’t pound out tough yards like his namesake grandson, who enjoys running behind the same O-line as Heath.
Now we are the point of no return. Lose this Friday and your season is over. The Scots have been excellent in rising to the occasion when the playoff season begins. It is a good thing that HP was able to finish the district race against two good teams – Lancaster and Mansfield Timberview. Both are good enough to see the Scots again later in the playoffs. Legacy, on the other hand, finished the season by blasting the four DISD teams and may have a distorted view of reality when they face Frisco Lone Star in the first round.
What can we expect from Wakeland? A passion to beat the Scots. The HP volleyball team just eliminated Wakeland in a nail-biter last week. The Highlander Band finished second in the state championship, just ahead of – who else? – Wakeland.
The Wolverines are 5-5 and have a 1,000-yard quarterback, Dylan Laible, who starts at quarterback and another 1,000-yard quarterback, Peyton Lewis, who starts at wide receiver. Watch out for the double pass!
Wakeland boasts two good running backs, Charlie Burkhart and Jared White, with 1,500 yards between them, and two good receivers, Kevin Rychel and Dugan Sexton, who have 1,500 yards between them. A third threat at receiver is Lewis (the other QB) who has thrown or caught 20 TDs this season.
When Randy Allen was at Abilene Cooper, Marty Secord was on his staff, When Allen left for Highland Park 21 years ago, Secord became the head coach at Cooper. Now he’s the head coach at Wakeland and the two old friends meet again.
Secord knows Allen is a great coach but does he know he’s also a wizard?