by Kirk Dooley
All the Scots who suit up this Friday night have gotten some game action over the past two weeks. When HP zapped Samuell, 49-0, and then smoked Sunset, 72-0, the starters exited the games early and the reserves were given the chance to play under the Friday night lights. That makes for a happy locker room.
The talent level changes this week. The Scots face a severe test Friday night as they host the Lancaster Tigers on Senior Night and Blue Out Night at Highlander Stadium. The Tigers entered the season as a team that was picked to finish third or fourth in the district. They lost their first two games (to Duncanville, 34-0, then to South Grand Prairie, 13-7) and their game against West Mesquite was canceled the night HP beat Mesquite Horn at 12:30 a.m. in a rain storm with 18 fans in the stands.
So district play starts and everyone has written off winless Lancaster. In yet another rainstorm Lancaster faces district favorite Mansfield Legacy (without Jalen Catalon) and the Tigers pull off the upset, 21-8. Then they clobber three DISD schools by a combined score of 189-6. The real test came last week when Lancaster battled Mansfield Timberview and skinned the Wolves, 49-18.
Let me repeat. Lancaster skinned Mansfield Timberview, 49-18.
That sets up tonight’s game. The winner of tonight’s game wins the district championship.
Who is Lancaster and why are they so good? Let’s start by saying Lancaster wins state in track as often as Highland Park wins state in tennis. Like every year.
Randy Allen told me that Lancaster has Manvel speed and that sent shrivers down my spine. Of my decades of covering high school football, I’ve never seen speed like Manvel. I still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, wondering if the Scots actually won the Manvel game last year.
Rod Hudson III (#6) is the Tigers quarterback and he leads the team in passing and is an excellent runner. And their running backs? Forget how many yards they’ve gained. Just focus on this: Tre Bradford (#2) averages 9.7 yards per carry, Karon Neblett (#7) averages 13.2 and DQ James (#20) averages 12.9. And their receivers? Latrell Caples (#1) averages 21.4 yards per catch and Ketron Jackson (#8) averages 34.3. These are D-I athletes who can score any time they touch the ball. All they need is one step and it’s an 85-yard touchdown.
On defense they’ve got two Prince Dorbahs: Xavier Newman (#42) and Tykino Davis (#52) who are excellent pass rushers. On special teams they’ve got punt returners and kickoff returners who are good for six points at any given moment. The Scots’ punter, Andrew Stanzel, is injured and will be replaced by kicker Wesley Winters. My advice is to kick it out of the end zone and punt it out of bounds.
The Scots have the weapons to win this game. But do they have the speed?
Both teams are 5-0 in district play. Neither has seen a team as good as their opponent this Friday.
The Scots probably won’t stop Lancaster’s big plays all night. But if they slow them down enough, that will give Chandler Morris and crew the chance to score enough points to win the district championship.
I hope you get the chance to go to this game. It should be a classic.
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.
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!
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.
by Kirk Dooley
This Friday the Scots will need to contain Mr. Lucas Woltjen.
He’s the 5’10”, 170-lb. quarterback for the Woodrow Wilson Wildcats. He’s the team’s leading passer and leading rusher. He’s a hard runner who likes to pull the ball on option plays and run it himself. And he has had good success, passing for 557 yards and eight touchdowns and running for 300 yards and three TDs. Woltjen led the Wildcats to a 3-0 pre-district record, beating Frisco, Frisco Heritage and Wylie East.
Then last week the district 6-5A race started and Woodrow battled Mansfield Timberview in a game that introduced the Wildcats to the quality of the HP/Timberview/Lancaster/Legacy district leaders. The Wolves surprised the Wildcats, 54-7. (This Friday Timberview faces crosstown rival Legacy and the winner will be a leading candidate to challenge the Scots for the district title.)
The Scots are the number two 5A team in the AP state poll. They have a 4-0 record and have beaten three strong teams, including Rockwall, who opened their district race last week with a 73-point performance. HP’s game last Friday against Bryan Adams was another surreal game that got moved up to 6:00 p.m. then got called near the end of the third quarter. Like the Mesquite Horn game, it was a weather-delayed match that ended in a water-logged, empty stadium. But the BA game was different in that the Scots won 49-0 without playing the final quarter.
Highland Park dominated Bryan Adams on both sides of the ball. The defense held the Cougars offense to minus-two yards of total offense and two first downs. Had the Scots offense missed the bus and never showed up HP would have won, 7-0, based on linebacker Colby Hopkins’ fumble recovery in the BA end zone.
Chandler Morris had another outstanding game, throwing five touchdown passes – three of which went to Mr. Touchdown, Finn Corwin – in a game that was missing a quarter. Statistically, Morris in now the top 5A quarterback in the area (with over 1,000 yards) and Mr. Touchdown is the number two receiver.
Against Woodrow, Hopkins has been moved to outside linebacker to fill in for injured Andrew Bonnet. Cal Hirschey will start at inside linebacker next to James Lightbourn.
With temperatures in the mid-’70s and no rain in the forecast, the Woodrow game at Highlander Stadium will bless fans from both teams with perfect weather under the Friday night lights. Like Highland Park, Woodrow Wilson has a long, storied history. It’s alumni association is strong, like HP’s and they will sell out the visitors’ section. The Woodrow fans will loud and proud.
While Highland Park is proud of its Heisman Trophy winner, Doak Walker, Woodrow is the only public high school in America to boast two Heisman winners – Davey O’Brien and Tim Brown. And while HP loves its NFL star quarterback, Matthew Stafford, WW boasts two NFL players – Sergio Kindle and Greg McCoy.
Pride, heritage and tradition aside, only the current players can dictate Friday night’s score. I don’t think the talented Wildcat defense will stop Morris and the HP offensive machine. The game will probably come down to Lucas Woltjen and if he is able to move the ball gainst the Scots with his arm and/or his legs.
Pick your poison.