Kirk’s preview of tomorrow night’s state championship game

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.