Ben Smith and Highland Park will try to cap a perfect season with a 5A Division I state championship on Saturday against Alvin Shadow Creek. (Photo: Melissa Macatee)
Highland Park’s big-game experience should give the Scots the edge as they chase a third consecutive Class 5A Division I state title on Saturday, right?
After all, HP is familiar with the spotlight that comes with deep playoff runs, has dealt with the title-game pressure, and carries an impeccable pedigree.
Historically, the Scots have more wins than any other program in Texas high school football history, and their current streak of 30 straight wins is best in the state, too. They’ve won 17 playoff games in a row.
But when HP kicks off against upstart Alvin Shadow Creek at 11 a.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium, it will meet an opponent that has nothing to lose — simply because it never has lost. The Sharks (15-0) are a first-year varsity program that has passed every test and surpassed every expectation.
The same can probably be said of the Scots (15-0), who can accomplish something no other team at the school has ever done. They could win 16 games in a season.
Even the stellar 2005 squad — the only other HP team to complete a perfect season — played only 15 times. And in each of the past two seasons, which ended with titles, the Scots’ record had an early-season blemish.
This HP team has proven it belongs in such lofty company, with a high-powered offense and an aggressive defense that has continued to improve as the season progressed.
On offense, the Scots have benefited from the consistency and efficiency of junior quarterback Chandler Morris, who hasn’t lost a game as the starter. He needs 252 passing yards on Saturday to surpass 4,000 yards for the season. He’s thrown 43 touchdown passes with just five interceptions. And he’s just as effective using his legs, with 632 rushing yards and a team-high 20 scores.
Morris has an excellent supporting cast led by big-play receiver Finn Corwin, who has 74 catches for 1,506 yards — for an average of more than 20 yards per reception — and 16 touchdowns.
However, HP likes to spread the ball around. Bennett Brown and Drew Scott each have seven scoring catches, with Brown grabbing three during last week’s state semifinal win over Denton Ryan. Benner Page has proven capable out of the backfield, needing just 39 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the year. He also has 10 total touchdowns.
On defense, the Scots have allowed 21 points or fewer in 13 of their past 14 games. Credit belongs to a balanced unit anchored by Hudson Clark in the secondary and Prince Dorbah along the line. HP’s hallmark is its ability to force turnovers, with a remarkable 40 takeaways this season.
Earlier this week, six HP players were honored on the Associated Press 5A all-state team. Offensive tackle Regan Riddle was named to the first team, while Morris and Dorbah are on the second team. Honorable mention selections included Corwin, Clark, and linebacker Chris Read.