ROYSE CITY — This year’s Highland Park squad can’t finish any better than last season’s state championship team, but it has already secured one accomplishment those predecessors can’t claim.
The Scots clinched the District 15-5A title on Friday by cruising to a 45-15 win over Royse City, stretching their winning streak to eight games.
After sharing the league crown prior to last season’s historic playoff run, HP will take the district outright in 2017, following the Scots’ win and West Mesquite’s loss to North Forney.
And the Scots (8-1, 6-0) have certainly earned it, having beaten each of their first six 15-5A opponents by at least 21 points heading into a home game against Wylie East in the regular-season finale next week.
John Stephen Jones threw five touchdown passes against the Bulldogs (4-5, 1-5), including three to Cade Saustad. He completed 13 of 14 passes for 217 yards, and now remarkably has thrown for 33 touchdowns with just two interceptions on the season.
Of course, the HP defense also played a role in establishing the big halftime advantage, holding Royse City scoreless despite being out-snapped by a 39-22 margin in plays. In other words, the Bulldogs were holding on to the ball, but weren’t capitalizing with points.
The most definitive example of the HP’s defensive dominance came late in the first quarter, when the Scots led 14-0. Royse City used a 13-play drive to secure first-and-goal from the HP 2-yard line, but was stuffed on three running plays, followed by a Prince Dorbah sack on fourth down from the 1.
The Scots grabbed that momentum and drove 93 yards in only six plays, including a 36-yard run by Paxton Alexander. Conner Allen scored on a 3-yard run, and HP held a 21-0 advantage before the first quarter was over.
Earlier, the Scots scored twice within about a two-minute span — both on Jones passes to Saustad. The duo connected on a 10-yard touchdown strike to cap HP’s opening possession. Then after a botched fake punt by the Bulldogs, the Scots took advantage of the favorable field position when the same combination hooked up on a 4-yard score.
HP reached the end zone on all five of its first-half drives. In the second quarter, a long punt return by Scully Jenevein set up a 12-yard Bennett Brown touchdown reception from Jones.
Another lengthy Royse City possession ended in a turnover on downs, and Jones engineered another quick-strike drive that included a 24-yard scoring pass to Finn Corwin, who has eight touchdowns on just 13 catches this year.
The Scots extended the margin to 42-0 midway through the third quarter, when Jones found a wide-open Saustad for a 38-yard touchdown pass that sent the starters to the bench.
Matteo Cordray tacked on a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, and the HP defense forced its only turnover of the game on a late interception by Ryan Khetan.
Royse City’s Dre Prox rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in the second half. The scampers of 64 and 80 yards accounted for almost half of the offensive output for the Bulldogs in the game.
However, Royse City couldn’t materialize much of a threat through the air. Matthew Yelverton connected on 14 of 20 throws, but only for 67 yards — an average of less than five yards per completion.
Alexander rushed for a team-high 77 yards on just five carries and also caught three passes for 54 yards for the Scots. Corwin tallied three catches for 78 yards, and Saustad finished with four receptions for 67 yards.