Last December, Chandler Morris was on the sideline during Highland Park’s thrilling 53-49 victory over Manvel in the Class 5A Division I championship game. He watched as Scots quarterback John Stephen Jones put together one of the best individual performances in Texas title-game history.
Shortly after the game ended, while emotions were still running high at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Jones took Morris aside.
“He told me it was my time,” Morris said. “He helped me out so much last year. He kind of took me under his wing.”
As the backup to Jones last season, Morris completed just 10 of 24 passes with two interceptions. He also ran for a touchdown during a postseason win over McKinney North.
“Chandler is a gamer. He’s not going to back down from anybody.” -Finn Corwin
Such experiences — both on and off the field — have prepared the junior to take over for one of the most decorated quarterbacks in program history.
“John Stephen set a great example, and Chandler was right there next to him,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “He’s anxious for his chance to play.”
Morris has been groomed to be an elite quarterback for almost his entire life. He was born in Houston, 10 days after his father, Chad Morris, was the head coach when Bay City topped Denton Ryan for the Class 4A state title in 2000.
Chad Morris later became the head coach at Stephenville and Lake Travis — where he won back-to-back crowns. He then transitioned to the college game as an assistant coach at Tulsa and Clemson. He took the head coaching job at SMU in 2015, which brought Chandler to HP.
Although he’s always enjoyed being around successful programs at various levels, finding stability has been a challenge. Chandler has been in the HP school system longer than anywhere else.
That comfort level persuaded him to remain behind when his father left SMU late last year for the University of Arkansas.
“It was a difficult decision, but I didn’t want to leave my coaches,” Morris said. “I’m at the greatest program in Texas high school football. I have a great relationship with everyone at Highland Park.”
Father and son hope to travel to each other’s games almost every weekend this year, with the Scots typically playing on Fridays and the Razorbacks on Saturdays.
“Anytime I have questions, I go to him,” Chandler said. “But I’ve also had a great relationship with all of his players. They give me advice because they’ve been there. I want to be like them. It gives me that competitive edge. Being around that talent makes you want to work that much harder.”
Morris will lead a new-look offense for the Scots this fall that returns only three starters from a year ago when HP established a new school record for points in a season. Six of the top seven receivers graduated.
Allen said Morris has improved steadily during the offseason, putting muscle on his frame and increasing the velocity of his throws.
“We’re real happy he stayed,” Allen said. “He’s been around the game and studied the game. That helps you.”
His teammates already have praised Morris as a natural leader who sets a good example to follow.
“Chandler is a gamer,” said receiver Finn Corwin, who led HP receivers with a 20.7 yard-per-catch average last season and scored 11 touchdowns. “He’s not going to back down from anybody.”
Morris already has scholarship offers from three prominent college programs before he’s even started a high school game, including Arkansas — where Jones already is on the roster — and Clemson.
But his focus, for now, is on leading the Scots to what he hopes will be a historic three-peat.
“I haven’t proven anything yet,” he said. “All that [recruiting] will work itself out. I’m here to win a state championship with my team.”