Playoff Rematch Against Frisco Independence this Friday

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.

Thursday Night Lights at Mansfield Timberview

by Kirk Dooley

It’s a trap. I’m telling you.
   The Scots travel to Mansfield this Thursday to tangle with the Timberview Wolves to close out the regular season for both teams. The Scots are 9-0 (6-0 in district) while the Wolves are 5-4 (4-2 in district). The Scots have won the district championship and are 6-5A Div. I’s top seed in the playoffs. Thursday’s game means noting to them in terms of playoff seeding.
   Timberview, on the other hand, is fighting for the third seed position in the playoffs. The Wolves will be the third seed if (1) they beat the Scots, which is a possibility, and if (2) Sunset beats Legacy, which is as likely as Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz driving to Washington together and streaming their road trip online.
   By the way, the difference between the third seed and fourth seed can be significant in how deep your team goes in the playoffs. Not many fourths advance.
   The Scots actually played Timberview last season in a pre-district game and it could have gone either way. The Wolves led, 13-0, after the first quarter and then 19-17 at the half. The Scots took their first lead of the game, 25-19,  on a Paxton Alexander run and a two-point conversion (Finn Corwin to Cade Saustad). In the fourth quarter Timberview scored twice, Benner Page scored once and the Scots were down, 32-31, as they launched their final drive of the night. With 28 seconds left in the game, Matteo Cordray, kicking into a stiff wind, nailed a 32-yard field goal to win the contest, 34-32.
   Had he missed it, the Scots’ record would have fallen to 1-2, which is not very state championshipish.
   So the Scots and the Wolves know each other intimately. The Timberview players are foaming at the mouth to get some revenge on the two-time defending state champs. The Scots have a goal of finishing the regular season undefeated – something the last two HP teams did not do – so they won’t be looking past the Wolves.
   Timberview lost to Legacy, 27-22, and to Lancaster, 49-14, and have won all its other district games. Quarterback Jordan Davis has thrown for 1,165 yards and 14 touchdowns and he has run for 301 yards and five more TDs. Running back Stacy Sneed, who scored twice in the first half last year against the Scots, is averaging 10.9 yards per carry on 69 carries this season. He has scored l1 touchdowns.
   The Scots are coming off a critical win over Lancaster last Friday. The Tigers were big, fast, athletic and have an intimidating drum line. HP countered with three quarters of solid offense, defense, special teams and a better fight song, blasted out frequently by the Highlander Band. 
   There’s rain in the forecast for Thursday and fans can enjoy rush-hour traffic on the way to the 7:00 game.
   Bundle up. Go early. Support your team. Don’t take these guys for granted. 
   They’ll appreciate your presence on Thursday night as they walk into a Wolf trap.

Scots Travel to Play the Sunset Bison

by  Kirk Dooley

    The Scots travel to Sprague Field this Friday to challenge the Sunset Bison. It is this year’s matchup between the team in first place and the team in last place. The Scots are 7-0 and the Bison are 1-6.  
   On paper, how far apart are these two teams? Let me put it this way. Highland Park beat Samuell, 59-0, and Samuell beat Sunset, 35-0. 
   Two weeks ago the Bison were shut out by the Lancaster Tigers, 61-0, and last week the Bison lost to Mansfield Timberview, 71-9. A team giving up and average of 66 points per game playing the state’s second-ranked 5A team sounds like a difficult undertaking. But that’s why we get out on the field and play the game.
   Sunset beat Hillcrest, 16-14, in Week Two and they looked good doing it. Kicker Julian Lievanos nailed a 26-yard field goal with two minutes left in the game to give the Bison the winning margin.
   For the season, quarterback Ty Williams leads the team in passing by completing 20 of 52 passes for 242 yards, but he has tossed seven interceptions and zero touchdowns. Lievanos has completed five of 11 passes for 129 yards and the season’s only TD. Jay Hernandez is the team’s leading rusher with 160 yards on 51 carries. The top receiver is Pablo Simental who has 11 receptions for 202 yards. Pretty good for a guy who played football for the first time in his life two years ago.
   Last year the Bison were 1-9 for the season and 0-6 in the district race, so their slump is not new to this year. But they are out there giving it their best effort and the Scots players and coaches respect them.
   The HP backups are hoping to see some game action this Friday but the starters will need to take care of business – and to play to their level – for the subs to be able to take the field.
   After the Sunset game things get very serious for the Scots the final two weeks of the regular season. Next Friday the Scots host Lancaster, which is currently tied with HP for the district lead at 4-0. Then the final week of the regular season will be a Thursday night tilt in Mansfield against Timberview. Two very tough games which will propel the Scots into the playoffs where their goal is to run the tables and win their third state championship in a row.
   But first they need focus on making the sun set on the Bison this Friday evening.

For Homecoming it’s the Spartans – Game Preview

by Kirk Dooley

It was 1999, Randy Allen’s first year at Highland Park. His newly installed Air Raid offense was a big hit as the Scots rolled to a 10-0 regular season record. In the first game of the playoffs they faced the 9-1 Samuell Spartans at Eagle-Mustang Stadium in Richardson.
   The Spartans, led by two Division I standouts, ended the Scots’ 1999 season. A couple of years later HP beat Samuell in the playoffs so the teams stand 1-1 during the Randy Allen era. But he hasn’t forgotten that first game when the Spartans defeated the 10-0 Scots. 
   This Friday HP hosts Samuell on homecoming night. There is rain in the forecast but what else is new?
   The Spartans started the season 3-1 and was on a roll. But their transmission got thrown into reverse when they faced Lancaster and Mansfield Timberview the past two weeks. Lancaster slashed the Spartans, 50-9, then last Friday Timberview socked them, 47-8. Over the two games, the Spartans were held to a total of 118 yards and nine first downs.
   Samuell has a dual-threat quarterback named John’Turius Shaw who accounted for 2,440 yards and 32 touchdowns as a junior. He suffered a leg injury and was out last week. The Spartans used three people at quarterback with defensive tackle Tyler Mayo gaining the most traction. This week the probable starting QB is listed as Julio Rodriguez but Shaw is listed as a starting slot receiver. He’s the team’s leasing passer and rusher so I guess he’d be a solid receiver also. If he plays, keep an eye on where #3 lines up. He is dangerous.
   The Scots are coming off a tough weather-delayed game against Mansfield Legacy. HP coaches believe that Legacy is one of the best teams the Scots have faced this season and that there’s a chance the Scots could face the Broncos again in the quarterfinals.
   With linebacker Andrew Bonnet out for the season, Colby Hopkins has slid over to his OLB position and junior Cal Hirschey is starting in Hopkins inside linebacker spot. Last week linebacker James Lightbourn went down and sophomore Patrick Turner will start in his position this Friday.
   While Chandler Morris continues to lead the area 5A quarterbacks with 1,609 yards, his favorite target Finn Corwin continues to live up to his nickname, Mr. Touchdown, with his 59-yard TD reception last Friday.
   The play of the game last week was Christopher Herrod’s caused fumble and recovery that led to the Scots going up, 14-0, just before the half. It was a huge play, changing the complexion of the game.
   Coach Allen was pleased with the Scots’ rain-soaked toughness on offense and defense and he was thrilled with the special teams play. With a slippery, waterlogged football, the snaps from Kipp Miller and Tyler Kilgus were perfect, the holds by Finn Corwin were secure and the kicks by Wesley Winters and punts by Andrew Stanzel were on target.
   The Scots aren’t afraid a stinkin’ wet football. Let it rain!

Scots Host Mansfield Legacy

by Kirk Dooley

   Going into this season, Mansfield Legacy was the popular choice to derail the Highland Park football freight train. The Dallas Morning News picked Legacy to win district 6-5A Div. I, with the Scots slated to come in second. Before the season started, Texas Football magazine had HP and Legacy as the second and third ranked teams in the state. Some predicted Legacy to win the state title because the Broncos had something nobody else had – Jalen Catalon.
   Generally considered one of the top 10 high school safeties in the nation, Catalon became an all-state defensive back as a sophomore and was named the 5A Defensive Player of the Year. As a junior he was asked to also play quarterback for the team and then was handed the keys to the offense. While still controlling half the field on defense as lightning-fast DB, he also passed for 1,120 yards and 15 touchdowns while running for a team-best 1,014 yards and 13 more touchdowns.
   He led a very good Legacy team to the state semifinals where the ride ended with a 28-21 loss to Aledo.
   Going into this season Catalon was Texas Football’s 5A coverboy and the Broncos had a goal of winning the state championship. They had been eliminated by the Scots in the 2016 quarterfinals and then lost to Aledo in last year’s semifinals. Like HP, these guys had a goal of winning the state title and nothing less.
   The Broncos lost their first game of the season against Oklahoma powerhouse Jenks, 35-14, but more importantly, they lost Catalon to a season-ending knee injury.
   The team is still very talented. Cam Clark stepped in as the starting quarterback while running back Kaleb King stepped up his role. The Broncs beat Crowley, 39-7, then dropped two games to Mansfield (14-7) and Lancaster (21-8). In the battle of the 6-5A Mansfield titans, Legacy defeated Timberview, 27-22, to re-establish itself as a district champion contender.
   This is a team that is hungry for revenge after its heart-stopping 14-7 loss to the Scots in the 2016 state quarterfinals at AT&T Stadium. The game that came down to the final play. On fourth and goal from the eight-yard-line, Catalon’s brother Kendall lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone and Highland Park defensive back George Stewart swatted the ball away as time expired and the Scots escaped with a 14-7 victory.
   This Friday’s game has been circled on the Mansfield Legacy calendars for a long time. The Broncos – even without Jalen Catalon – have the talent to win the game. They have the will. They have the emotion.
   What they don’t have is Chandler Morris or Finn Corwin. 
   Morris is leading the area 5A quarterbacks with 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns. Corwin is the second-ranked receiver with 27 receptions for 584 yards and nine TDs. Armed with a great offensive line, the Scots’ top passing threat has been unstoppable. Could Jalen Catalon have disrupted them this Friday?
   Maybe. But we’ll never know.