by Kirk Dooley
Of all the flashy stars from both teams in Saturday’s state semifinal shootout between Highland Park and Denton Ryan, the MVP could very well wind up being Matteo Cordray.
Cordray, a junior kicker at HP, stepped in when talented starting kicker Jackson Hubbard suffered an injury. Like Dak Prescott, Cordray has done quite well and hasn’t given the starting job back.
This state semifinal game pits two offenses that can light up a scoreboard against two defenses that have sucked all the oxygen out of North Texas. Usually we’re trying to predict which team will slow down the other team’s offense. This game could beg the question, “Which defense will shut down the other team’s offense?” While it’s hard to believe that Saturday’s offensive fireworks could be suffocated, the reality is that this game could go 10-7 either way. In that case, my money is on Cordray.
He was a middle school soccer standout when PE coach Ryan Gibbs pulled him aside and asked if he had ever thought about kicking a football.
“No, sir. I never thought about it.”
Gibbs, the Scots’ running backs coach, has a nose for talent and he helped Cordray develop into a solid and dependable football kicker. If a field goal beats Denton Ryan Saturday, the assist goes to Gibbs.
While Denton Ryan will be the best team the Scots have faced in several years, HP has a great advantage in playing Frisco Independence, Mansfield Lake Ridge and Mansfield Legacy in the playoffs leading up to this game. Those three playoff wins featured a Highland Park defense that shut down three of the best offenses in North Texas. The fact that the Scots neutralized Legacy’s Kendall Catalon last week means that HP has the ability to neutralize Ryan’s QB Spencer Sanders (which, by the way, nobody has come close this season).
Ryan is averaging 40.4 points per game. HP is averaging 38.6. Ryan is giving up 16.1 points per game. HP is giving up 13.5. Ryan is coached by a former Highland Park assistant. He knows what makes the Scots special. Can he outfox his former mentor? Although he has the D-1 talent to beat some colleges right now, I think he will face the best prepared team he’s seen in his three years in Denton.
On paper nobody can beat Denton Ryan. They are said to have the best 5A defense in North Texas but I think the Scots’ defense will be better on Saturday. Spencer, one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, could get rattled if his offense gets throttled early. His team is not used to being behind.
This game should be a defensive death match. When was the last time the Scots won a game like that?
Well, last week.
I know it’s not this simple, but let me repeat my theory: If you can corral Kendall Catalon, you can corral Spencer Sanders. And if that happens, the Scots will be playing next Saturday for the state championship.
HOW TO GET TICKETS, WHERE TO SIT AND OTHER GAME DETAILS:
Highland Park will face Denton Ryan at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Our radio broadcast of the Highland Park vs. Denton Ryan State Semifinal Playoff Game on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 10th will be carried on 103.3 ESPN (KESN) throughout the Dallas area. Pre-Game starts at 12:30 PM with kickoff slated for 1:30 PM. Fans listening at home (or anyplace other than the stadium) can hear the game by any of the following methods:
1. With a radio tuned to 103.3 FM
2. On a mobile phone or computer by going to www.kesn1033.com … then clicking the “Play” (right) arrow to “Listen Live”.
3. By going to www.kesn1033.com … then downloading the free app via the link on the homepage.
For those fans who are attending the game at AT&T Stadium:
1. Tune your transistor radio to 103.3 FM ESPN. You should be able to get reception on the FM station inside the stadium. If you are having trouble getting steady, clear reception, try moving to another seating location. The signal tested “good” in most locations on the Highland Park side of the stadium.
2. If you are inside the stadium, do NOT try to listen on your phone or computer. Your phone or computer will delay the transmission by 7-10 seconds and therefore what you are hearing will not “match-up” with what you are seeing. This delay does not occur when listening on a transistor radio.