by Kirk Dooley
The Highland Park defense has aggressively grabbed the spotlight during the playoffs, stuffing high-octane offenses and proving to be the difference between the Scots being a good team and a great team.
That challenge escalates this Friday night as the Scots battle the Mansfield Lake Ridge Eagles, who averages 490 yards and 42.5 points per game. The winner of this game plays the winner of the Frisco Wakeland – Mansfield Legacy contest in the state quarterfinals next week.
Last week the Eagles scored 87 points against the Samuel Spartans. They never let their foot of the gas because the Spartans kept scoring themselves, finishing the night with 58 points. And to be clear, the Scots offense could have scored 90 points each of the past two games if their opponents had kept scoring. But those past two teams, Mount Pleasant and Frisco Independence, were completely shut down by a destructive HP defense. Mount Pleasant was credited with a safety and Independence came away with an early field goal. No touchdowns. The HP defenders are still mad about the loss to Wylie East and they are playing like mad men.
The Scot coaches get an A-plus for their preparation, giving their players the best chance to succeed. Independence had the highest-rated 5A offense in North Texas (508 yards per game) and had a 2,000-yard runner. The Scots defense, built Ford-tough, held the Knights to 148 yards of total offense and held their star back to 35 yards rushing. That was not luck. It was talent, determination, spirit and preparation.
This week the Scots face a better team. Lake Ridge was in the state finals last year. Its quarterback, Jason Dean, has thrown for 2,725 yards and 25 touchdowns. He has also run for 530 yards and six more TDs. The Eagles have a star running back, Darrius Lee, is 52 yards away from 1,000 yards for the season.
The Scots’ top two receivers, Cade Saustad and Scully Jenevein, are injured and out for the season. But the Scots rotate eight top-notch receivers each game, so a dropoff isn’t felt. J.T. Dooley got more playing time last week and responded with a dazzling 97-yard, two-touchdown night.
Common opponents? Both teams beat Poteet, but not by much. HP shut out Mansfield Timberview, 31-0, then the Wolves turned around and gave Lake Ridge its worst loss of the season, 35-7. Go figure. Waxahachie, once a state top-10 team, beat the Scots on Sept. 2, then Lake Ridge beat Waxahachie, 63-49, in their final district game. The winner made the playoffs and the loser stayed home. Waxahachie is arguably the best team in Texas that didn’t make the playoffs.
Both Highland Park and Lake Ridge come from outstanding districts, as 9-5A and 15-5A had four teams advance to the second round and both have three teams in the third round. HP, Lake Ridge and Mansfield Legacy are three of the four Div. I teams left in the region. Poteet, Wylie East and Lancaster are three of the four teams left in Div. II. That is a lot of firepower for two districts.
Scots quarterback John Stephen Jones last week completed 11 of 15 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns. He is comfortable, confident and seems right at home at the Ford Center at The Star.
Lake Ridge averages 42.5 points per game and the Highland Park defense allows 12.9. How will that translate? My money is on Luke Blanton, Marshall Hammack, Turner Coxe, Matt Gahm, Bennett Brock, John House, Max Holsomback, O’Neil Sitzer, Alex Walzel, George Stewart, Zac Folts and James Herring.
Gentlemen, start your defense.