HP Faces #1 Denton Guyer at The Star Friday

by Kirk Dooley

There’s no such thing as a single game season, but the Highland Park Scots circled Nov. 18 on their calendars back when time began, it seems. All of spring training, summer workouts and the first 11 games of this season have been merely a backdrop for this playoff drama against top-rated Denton Guyer, a team dripping with talent.

I love the way Coach Randy Allen doesn’t blink. “This is why we play football,” he deadpans.

Denton Guyer has been to the state finals two of the past three years. Last year the head coach was Rodney Webb, who retired from coaching after the season and joined Highland Park as its new Athletic Director.

This will be a strange game for him.

The 11-0 Wildcats are ranked first in the area and sixth in the state. The 11-0 Scots are ranked 6th in the area and 16th in the state. What’s great about the playoffs is that rankings and undefeated records mean nothing. Any team can beat any team.

HP fans have asked me how the Scots can beat such a talented team. My response is, “Denton Ryan. Denton Ryan. Denton Ryan.”

For those who remember the Scots’ three state championships in 2016, 2017 and 2018 will recall that each of those years Ryan was favored to win state, ranked No. 1 all year and predicted to beat the Scots in each of those three playoff games. Ryan was 45-3 during those three years and all three losses were to Highland Park. Ryan had impressive talent, many guys who went on to play on Saturdays. But the Scots were prepared, coached up well, and believed they could find a way to win.

Which is what Scots do.

Guyer has future Oklahoma Sooners QB Jackson Arnold, the second coming of Spencer Sanders, and he is quite a talent. The Wildcats’ secondary is loaded with four-star talent, including the Bowen brothers, Peyton and Eli. I’m sure they have a nephew named Arch. Peyton may be the best safety in the state. Little brother Eli was injured last week and will miss the Scots game.

HP quarterback Brennan Storer has been playing his best football. He’s got so may weapons at receiver that Guyer won’t have enough four-star DBs to cover everyone.

Both Guyer and HP are averaging more than 400 yards and 44 points per game. Both defenses are holding teams to under 14 points per game. Something, ladies and gentlemen, has got to give.

The Scots have a secret weapon in Adam Rourke, a star DB who doubles as the kick assassin. He has blocked nine kicks in his career and got one last week, a play that changed the course of the game.

Rourke’s blocked PAT, which would have tied the score at 30-30, wound up in the hands of alert HP linebacker Charlie Barton who ran the length of the field – inexplicably outrunning several faster opponents – to score two points, giving the Scots a 30-27 lead and the momentum for the rest of the game.

What gave Barton the superpower to outrun the entire Arlington Bowie team?

He wanted to cross the goal line for Amazing Grace.

HP Starts Playoff Run, Hosts Volunteers

By Kirk Dooley

The Arlington Bowie Volunteers come riding in from the west on Friday as the Scots host the bi-district playoff game at Highlander Stadium. Bowie brings its 5-5 season record to battle 10-0 Highland Park.

Midway through the season the Volunteers were able to string together a four-game winning streak, knocking off Plano, Royse City, Arlington Sam Houston and Grand Prairie. But then they dropped three of their final four games including last Friday’s concussion protocol loss to Arlington Martin, 62-12.

Not many teams roll into the playoffs after losing their last game by 50 points, but the Volunteers should give the Scots a challenge. They are averaging 35 points per game. Quarterback DeAngelo Ponder, a 2,000-yard passer, was knocked out of the Martin game in the first quarter. His back-up, Harrison Casey, finished that game and could see action this Friday.

Bowie also boasts a 1,000-yard runner, Darrion Bowers, and a 1,000-yard receiver, Kelby Valsin, who have combined for 19 touchdowns.

Among the area 6A teams the Scots are ranked second in passing and the Volunteers are ranked 11th. The Scots are ranked fifth in scoring (44 points per game) while the Volunteers are ranked 18th with 35 ppg. Bowie has 4,2049 yards of total offense for the season. HP has 4,049.

The Scots defense is allowing 277 yards per game (136 on the ground, 141 in the air), which ranks 13th in the area. They are holding offenses to 12.3 points per game, which is the third best.

Highland Park brings plenty of depth to the playoffs. They’ve had a deep roster all year but quite a few back-ups saw serious game action the second half of the season. So these guys are experienced and ready to step in if their number is called. One consistent factor in the playoffs is the potential for injuries.

What can Scots fans look for this Friday? First of all, the rain on Friday should be done by game time. Second, the Volunteer offense is explosive and balanced. They throw the ball as much as the Scots and they are used to putting up points. Last Friday they limped through the second, third and fourth quarters without their starting quarterback. They gave up three interceptions and two fumbles. Arlington Martin defensive back Josiah Charles picked off three Bowie passes and returned two of them for touchdowns of 44 and 94 yards.

Sometimes teams in the playoffs look ahead beyond the current game. The planets have lined up for the Scots to do that this week. However, 50 percent of the players on the current HP roster were witnesses to Frisco Wakeland’s upset win early in last year’s playoffs. Those guys still have that bad taste in their mouths, so I don’t see the Scots getting caught looking ahead.

It is moments like this when the Scots benefit from scheduling hard opponents early in the season. HP dispatched 6-A powerhouses Flower Mound Marcus and Lewisville in their first two games. Then two of their first three district games were against Jesuit and Lake Highlands. All four of those teams are in the playoffs.

When the going gets tough this Friday night, the Scots will recall what they did in those four tough games to come out on top.

   Then they’ll hit “rewind” and do it again.

HP’s Final Regular Season Game at Pearce

By Kirk Dooley

Although the Scots have clinched a share of the district championship and will be the number one seed in the first round of the playoffs next week, this last district game against the J.J. Pearce Mustangs in Richardson will have special meaning.

For Pearce.

The Mustangs are fighting for the fourth playoffs spot from district 7-6A. Highland Park, Jesuit and Lake Highlands have the first three playoff spots locked up. The fourth playoff team will be either Richardson Berkner, Irving MacArthur or Richardson Pearce.

You would need to talk with a Talented and Gifted math wiz to understand all the possible playoff outcomes of this Friday’s games. But instead, all you got here is me, and I think here’s all you need to know: Pearce will make the playoffs if they beat Highland Park and MacArthur beats Berkner.

So this final district game will have meaning because Pearce will attack like warriors on a mission. A win over the Scots could qualify them for the playoffs (see paragraph above) and would make their season a success. They might even storm the field if the lifeboats are deployed at Eagle-Mustang Stadium.

That’s right. There is a 90 percent chance of rain this Friday. And for the handful of loyal Scots fans who braved the weather last Friday at Highlander Stadium, another rain event like that could put them over the edge.

I’ve never seen this before but in last week’s downpour of a high school football game, there were more Richardson players on the field than there were Richardson fans in the stands. And the Highland Park stands weren’t much more populated. The Belles, the band and the cheerleaders were all dismissed and watched the game on big-screen TVs in their warm, dry living rooms. Even sideline reporter Jae Ellis was so lonely that he was interviewed because there was nobody else on the sideline to interview.

So what about the Pearce Mustangs? They are 4-3 in district play. They have beaten Nimitz, MacArthur, Richardson and Irving. They’ve lost to Jesuit, Lake Highlands and Berkner. Their most spectacular game was a 55-49 overtime win over MacArthur. Quarterback Presley Harper threw fore 299 yards and three touchdowns, including a fourth down, 14-yard strike to Caden Varner with two minutes left in the game to tie the score at 49-49.

With seconds left on the clock, MacArthur’s Darelle Smith scored on a dramatic 38-yard run to win the game but wait, there was a flag on the play. Holding. Bring it back. Hello overtime.

In overtime Pearce recovered a MacArthur fumble then Mustangs running back Ryan Williams (who ran for 155 yards that night) scored on a 14-yard waltz to win the game..

Last week Pearce scored 45 points against Irving so they’ve got some offensive momentum and confidence.

   The Scots learned last Friday that sophomore linebacker Jack Morse loves playing in the rain (seven solo tackles, a TFL and a fumble recovery) so as far as he’s concerned, let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.