By Kirk Dooley
Last year it was David vs. Goliath. This year it is the Clash of the Titans.
The Highland Park-Denton Ryan state semifinal game was predicted at the beginning of the season by every sportswriter this side of the Brazos. Ryan is 14-0 and has been rated the top team in the state for the past 14 weeks. Their quarterback is the Gatorade Texas Player of the Year. HP’s quarterback is the Tom Landry Texas Player of the Year. That alone will be a classic battle.
Ryan is averaging 48.6 points per game and HP is averaging 45.3. The Scots average 484 yards per game and the Raiders 475. The Scots have Cade Saustad and the Raiders have three Cade Saustads.
The undefeated Raiders are not used to facing a team that isn’t afraid of them. The Scots proved last year that Goliath can go down and so this is the first time Ryan has a reason to get emotional about revenge. It could work to their advantage or it might create some self-doubt.
Last year’s Highland Park win was not a fluke. The Scots totaled 378 yards and held the Raiders to 174.
HP held Ryan to 11 first downs. Ryan’s leading rusher had 29 yards.
Some folks believe that HP would not have won the game last year if quarterback Spencer Sanders had not been knocked out of the game in the second quarter. Any team that loses its star player will suffer. But I contend that the Scots defense – last year’s Dark Alley Boys – held Sanders in check during the quarter and a half that he did play. Before he was injured he completed three of six passes for 26 yards and he ran six times for 12 yards. The guy is a great quarterback but he was bottled up by a great defense.
Sanders is a good passer and a better scrambler. He likes to operate out of an empty set (with five wide receivers) then slither past the pass rushers and run to daylight. He extends plays like John Stephen Jones, who by the way, has 400 more passing yards that the Gatorade Player of the Year.
This will be one of the most anticipated Texas high school football games of the year. The Scots can win if they can contain Sanders. I think this could be Prince Dorbah’s breakout game. He has the quickness and athleticism to be a thorn in Sanders side and personally disrupt the Ryan offense. The Raiders are still spooked by Zak Folts’ game-ending interception last year and they still have no answer for Paxton Alexander this year. And they have never faced a more reliable kicker than Matteo Cordray.
Denton Ryan is loaded with exceptional talent and deserves to be the state’s top-ranked 5A team.
However, on Friday night they’re going to find out that there’s a new sheriff in town.