With five starters returning from a team that won the Class 5A Division I state championship a year ago, Highland Park hopes it can pick up right where it left off.
After all, in addition to experience in big games, many of the current seniors have been playing together since middle school.
“They have really good chemistry,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “They trust each other and know what the others are going to do.”
The group of returnees is headlined by quarterback John Stephen Jones, whose terrific junior campaign included more than 3,000 yards passing with 29 touchdowns, to go along with nine rushing scores.
Paxton Alexander is poised to take over as the starting running back, a role in which he thrived late last season, when a banged-up depth chart pressed him into service. He finished with nine touchdowns, including four in the state semifinal win over Denton Ryan.
“We’re ready to work harder,” Alexander said. “Every team is going to play us like it’s their championship game. We’re trying to embrace that.”
The Scots also return their top two receivers from last season, Cade Saustad and Scully Jenevein, who combined for 68 receptions, more than 1,000 yards, and nine touchdowns before both suffered season-ending injuries.
They will lead another deep corps of receivers for HP that includes Carson Bryant and Jay Smith. Last season, 17 players caught at least one pass for the Scots.
Mammoth tackle Thomas Shelmire, who has verbally committed to Boston College, will anchor an otherwise inexperienced offensive line.