by Kirk Dooley
Highland Park football fans who were at the Frisco Lone Star game last Thursday are still hyperventilating.
The few who stayed for the rain-soaked, lightning-delayed marathon against Mesquite Horn two weeks ago are still wet. Or at least their clothes are.
But nobody is complaining. The Scots are 3-0 in pre-district play, topping three very good teams and earning the ranking of the number two 5A team in the state.
Playing 0-3 Bryan Adams this Friday might won’t be as challenging for the Scots in many ways but it will be difficult in one key area: Playing the game at all.
There is rain in the forecast Thursday night, Friday morning, Friday afternoon and Friday evening. Then around game time there is an 80 percent chance of heavy thunderstorms. That’s the kind of rain that includes lightning and we know what that means. Dozens of Dallas-area high school games have been moved up from Friday to Thursday.
If the game does get cancelled after several lightning delays, there’s several great restaurants I can recommend that are on the way back to the Park Cities. The burgers at Goodfriend Beer Garden (Peavy and Garland Road) are among the best in Dallas. Next door to Goodfriend is Twenty Feet Seafood Joint, which has the best lobster rolls in town. On the other side of Goodfriend is Hello Dumpling, a noodle place that also carries Wild About Harry’s custard. Tex-Mex? Try El Vecino at the corner of N. Buckner Blvd. and Northcliff Drive.
But what if the game takes place as scheduled? The Scots are 3-0 and the Cougars are 0-3. HP is favored.
Through the first three games. BA quarterback Morgan Spears has completed 16 of 45 passes for 164 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions. Running back Kenvodrick Shaw has rushed 53 times for 177 yards. And the Cougar’s leading receiver, DaQuan Bell, has caught nine passes for 129 yards and two TDs. Bryan Adams has lost its three games by the scores of 32-7, 33-7 and 37-7. After much thought, I have deducted that the Cougars are averaging seven points per game. They were district champions last year and were D1 area finalists, so they are proven winners. In the new district realignment the Cougars landed in the same district with Highland Park, Lancaster and two difficult Mansfield teams. Tough sledding.
The one statistic that stands out to me is that Bryan Adams has scored three touchdowns so far this season while Finn Corwin has scored four.
Forester Field is named after the grandfather of 1972 HP captain Mike Forester. I hope there’s a good HP crowd there Friday night, but to quote the President of the United States, Friday night’s storms will be “wet”.
by Kirk Dooley
The playoffs begin this Thursday in Frisco. Are you ready?
OK, I realize that the district race hasn’t even started yet but the Scots are walking into a major playoff atmosphere as they challenge Frisco Lone Star in a Thursday night showdown at Memorial Stadium.
It will be the first time these two teams have ever met. Since Lone Star was founded eight years ago it has become the football royalty of Frisco, which has six teams in district 5-5A Div I.
The Lone Star Rangers were regional finalists last year, boasting a 12-2 record. They return 13 starters and have begun the 2018 season by trouncing Richland, 42-2, and Denton, 51-6.
The Scots and the Rangers are ranked the top two 5A teams in the Dallas area. The AP ranks HP number two and Lone Star number four in the state. This will be one of those “clash of the titans” battles and it’s only the third game of the season.
It is important to note that this is the biggest game in the history of Lone Star High School. Memorial Stadium in Frisco will be shaking with playoff electricity. Highland Park usually has a big target on its back and on Thursday the Rangers will have a M1 Abrams tank pointed at it.
The Scots are coming off two impressive wins over good 6A teams. The Rangers are also 2-0 and have outscored their opponents 93-8. Last week Lone Star quarterback Julian Larry completed 10 of 12 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Six receivers caught at least one pass, led by Ife Opere who caught five for 75 yards and two scores. Running back Quinn Maloney ran for 140 yards and two TDs. The Rangers secondary is solid, consisting of four returning starters.
Denton was down 51-0 when it scored on a three yard pass in the last 83 seconds. It was the only touchdown the Rangers have allowed this season. That will be a good challenge for Mr. Touchdown on Thursday.
Mr. Touchdown, aka Finnegan Corwin, is the Scots receiver who has a knack of turning receptions into six points. He was named the Dallas Morning News Offensive Player of the Week after his 205-yard, four-touchdown performance against Mesquite Horn last Friday. Defensive end Prince Dorbah was honorable mention Defensive Player of the Week for his five sacks and a safety.
Last week’s rain and lightning delays caused both bands and both drill teams abandon ship and miss the game. The contest was ultimately played in its entirety but the loss of the music and dancing made those rain-drenched warriors still in the stands realize how important the bands and drill teams are to the magic of the Friday night lights.
I’ll go out on a limb and make two predictions. The Lone Star defense is allowing an average of four points per game and I predict that the Scots will score more than four points. My other prediction is that this won’t be the only time the Scots face the Rangers this season.
A playoff atmosphere this Thursday? Get used to it.
by Kirk Dooley
The Friday Night Lights went out in Texas on August 31 as Highlander Stadium went dark at 10:00 p.m. with seven minutes left in the Highland Park-Rockwall football game. Fans on both sides lit up their cell phones and illuminated the darkness until the lights came back on 17 minutes later.
It was surreal.
Actually, the break helped the Scots deal with their cramping issues as both teams got a breather from the hot August night. The Scots defense was able to keep the Yellowjackets out of the end zone in the fourth quarter as the HP offense built up a 49-35 lead. The Jackets scored on the last play of the game to tighten the score to 49-42, but there was no time for an onside kick and a miracle finish, like how last year’s game ended.
Two of the Rockwall stars from last year’s win were on the field again this past Friday. Quarterback Jacob Clark, a 6‘5” Minnesota commit, completed 22 of 34 passes to his receivers and two to HP cornerback Hudson Clark, who returned one of them 42 yards for a touchdown. Dangerous Yellowjackets receiver Jaxon Smith caught 13 passes for 232 yards and two scores.
But the night belonged to HP’s junior quarterback Chandler Morris, who introduced himself on the fifth play from scrimmage with a nifty 70-yard touchdown run. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns, both to Drew Scott. Morris was also the Scots’ leading rusher, picking up 105 yards on 10 carries, and scoring four touchdowns on the ground.
This Friday the Scots host the Mesquite Horn Jaguars, another big and speedy 6A powerhouse. The Jags’ quarterback, Jermaine Givens, had 4,000 of total offense as a junior and is one of the top dual-threat QBs in the state. Last year he was 11-6A’s offensive MVP as he led Horn to a 10-2 record.
Last week the Jaguars ran into a buzz saw known as the Allen Eagles. Horn suffered its first shutout since 2010 as the Eagles soared away with a 40-0 win. The Horn players now move from Allen (6A state champions) to Highland Park (5A state champions). Tough schedule.
Highland Park coaches are just as worried about Horn’s speed as they were before the Jaguar’s opening loss. They said that Horn is just like Rockwall except faster. It will be another challenging pre-district game.
On another subject, the best player the Scots would face this season has been injured and is out for the season. Mansfield Legacy quarterback/safety Jalen Catalon, one of the best high school players in the nation, will miss his senior season. Legacy was picked to win the district championship over Highland Park and picked to win the state championship by some. Legacy still has a team that will challenge the Scots in district play and beyond.
I feel like flying my flag at half-mast in honor of Catalon, the Scots’ talented and worthy opponent. After he sorts through his 24 scholarship offers, he’ll be playing on Saturdays for a big-time team next year.
In the meantime the Scots have Jermaine Givens to worry about. He and the Jaguars will be tough opponents on Friday night at Highlander Stadium. Bring your flashlight.
by Kirk Dooley
Historically, Highland Park football teams focus so much on winning the state championship that nobody has really thought about what it would be like to start the season as the TWO-TIME defending state champs.
But here we are. In West Texas it’s called “high cotton”.
HP has won 29 games and lost three over the past two state championship seasons. If the team keeps winning at that pace, Highland Park fans will need oxygen masks.
Will the 2016 and 2017 state titles mean anything to the 2018 team? The answer is yes. While the offense loses five first-team TSWA all-state performers – John Stephen Jones, Cade Saustad, Paxton Alexander, Thomas Shelmire and Matteo Cordray – the reloaded 2018 team has state championship experience and a winning mindset that only being in the arena can bring. Even with the Scots’ unprecedented loss of talent through graduation, Texas Football magazine ranks HP second in the state going into this season. With six returning starters. Texas Football’s nod to the Scots is really an endorsement of HP’s JV Blue program which is a factory of juniors being trained to start on Friday nights as seniors.
How do you replace last year’s 5A Offensive Player of the Year, John Stephen Jones?
You wind up Chandler Morris and turn him loose.
Two years ago JSJ made his first varsity start against Rockwall at Highlander Stadium and he led Scots to a 22-0 first quarter lead. He finished the night completing 18 of 22 passes for 327 yards and four touchdown passes to four different gentlemen. The Scots won, 43-21. Nobody wondered about Jones’ lack of experience after that and I believe that Morris has the talent and supporting cast to enjoy a similar trajectory.
This Friday the Yellowjackets will bring their own lethal QB, 6’5” Jacob Clark, who lit up the Scots for 53 points last year in HP’s only loss. His favorite target, Jaxon Smith, can score every time he touches the ball. And on defense, Rockwall features Anfernee Orji, the most dynamic defensive back this side of Jalen Catalon.
The Scots will start QB Morris, RB Benner Page, WR Finn Corwin, WR Bennett Brown or Drew Scott, WR Ben Smith, WR Drew Dodge, LT Regan Riddle, LG Ryan Butz, C Tyler Kilgus, RG Jack Rourke and RT Harrison Hall or Henry Hagenbuch. On defense look for DE Prince Dorbah, NG Jeremy Hanes, DE Jack Jurgovan, ILB Colby Hopkins, ILB James Lightbourn, OLB Chris Read, OLB Andrew Bonnet, CB Whit Winfield, CB Hudson Clark, S Ryan Khetan and S Brock Bakich. The kicker will be Wesley Winters and the punters are Andrew Stanzel and Will Vandermeer. This lineup is likely to be updated as the season progresses.
The Yellowjackets are capable of scoring 50 points on the Scots. HP has the fire power to hang 50 on the Jackets. So will this be one of those 100-point games coming out of the chute or will one or both defenses stiffen up and protect their end zone? Who knows. That’s why we line ‘em up and play the game.
Welcome to the 2018 edition of Highland Park football. Enjoy the ride. Just be sure to fasten your seat belt.
by Kirk Dooley
How did the Scots beat the unbeatable Denton Ryan? Let me count the ways.
1. The defensive coaching staff put together a great plan and the players executed it well. Take away the deep ball. Gap responsibility. Put pressure on the QB with blitzes. Tackle well.
2. Offensive lineman Jack Jernigan fielded an onside kick while getting blasted by a wall of Raiders. Jernigan held his ground, fielded the onside kick and redefined what a “hands” player looks like.
3. Last week I said that HP had Cade Saustad but that Denton Ryan had three Cade Saustads. I stand corrected. There is only one Cade Saustad and he hauled in three touchdown receptions in the first half.
4. James Herring opened the second half by stripping the ball from a Ryan ball carrier. Elliott Newsom used his radar instincts to locate the fumble and pounce on it. It was a seismic momentum shifter.
5. John Stephen Jones threw for 102 yards more than the Texas 5A High School Player of the Year.
6. The Scots offense was averaging 45.3 points and 483.6 yards per game going in to the Ryan game. Against the Raiders they scored 45 points and gained 514 yards. They just needed to score .3 points more.
7. Linebacker Ryan Coxe is a pretty good closet running back. On a fake punt, he rambled for a first down and kept Denton Ryan (no relation) on its heels. Plus, his resume also includes interceptions.
8. The Scots’ last drive ate up 8:05 of the clock as they converted on four third-down plays. HP was so efficient on offense that Denton Ryan ran only one play in the fourth quarter. Can’t beat you without the ball.
9. The kickoff coverage team and kickoff return team were both outstanding. Just like Matteo Cordray.
10. Linebacker Noble Nash led the team in tackles with 10. At one point he hit a Ryan running back so hard that it shook the stadium as it shook the Raiders’ confidence.
How will the Scots beat the unbeatable Manvel? Let me guess the ways.
1. When Manvel lines up a cornerback, a safety and their starting quarterback to try to cover Cade Saustad, HP will have three other receivers who will be open and lethal.
2. Manvel produces around 10 major college players every year. HP produces a great high school team.
3. The Mavericks don’t have a game-changing linebacker coming off the bench like Colby Hopkins.
4. HP has six honorable mention all-state players – Matteo Cordray, Ryan Coxe, John Stephen Jones, Elliott Newsom, Regan Riddle and Thomas Shelmire.
5. The Scots might try to replicate an offensive blue print that worked for them last Friday night. Saddle up Paxton Alexander and Conner Allen and let them ride out the clock. In last week’s game the Scots ran 47 plays in the second half. Ryan ran 10. Using that theorem, the Scots can keep the talented Mavericks from scoring if they don’t have the ball.
6. Here’s a great idea: Have John Stephen throw four touchdown passes in the first half. Our man needs 366 passing yards to break the all-time UIL record of 4,713 yards set by Allen’s Kyler Murray in 2014.
7. Let’s don’t get sentimental, but Friday will be the last time the HP seniors suit up for a Scots game. I predict that their intensity will reflect that.
8. The Scots defense has forced 10 turnovers over the first five playoff games. You do the math.
9. Manvel has an outstanding receiver in Jalen Preston (#5). Highland Park cornerbacks Grayson Serio and Hudson Clark will meet the challenge because safeties James Herring and Zak Folts will protect them over the top. All four DBs will rise to the occasion.
10. Since 1923 Highland Park has never won back-to-back state championships. HP’s program has been built on pride, heritage and tradition. What a great statement the Scots can make Friday as they make history.