The Highland Park defense will aim for another big effort against another high-powered opponent when the Scots face Denton Ryan in the Class 5A Division I state semifinals. (Photo: Chris McGathey)
A familiar obstacle awaits Highland Park during its quest for a third consecutive Class 5A Division I state title.
In each of the past two seasons, the Scots used a narrow state semifinal win over Denton Ryan as a springboard into the championship game.
That scenario will repeat itself on Saturday, when HP will meet the Raiders again, with the same stakes in the balance. Kickoff is set for noon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
The winner of the highly anticipated clash of unbeaten powerhouses will play at the same time and location the following week for the crown, against either Alvin Shadow Creek or San Antonio Wagner.
Both teams are familiar with the spotlight that comes with deep playoff runs. And Ryan will be especially motivated for revenge, of course, after being eliminated by HP 45-35 last season, and 31-24 two years ago.
The Scots (14-0) escaped the Region II final by staging a 28-point comeback in the fourth quarter against Tyler John Tyler last week. Junior quarterback Chandler Morris engineered the rally in the 42-35 victory by throwing for three touchdowns and running for three more — including the game-winner with nine seconds remaining.
Morris has accounted for 57 touchdowns this year, including 40 through the air and 17 on the ground. His top target continues to be Finn Corwin, who is among the top receivers in the state statistically with 68 catches for 1,410 yards and 16 scores.
The HP defense also made some big plays down the stretch to slow down the athletic Lions, none bigger than Hudson Clark’s second interception of the game.
The Raiders (14-0) have matched HP’s dominance throughout the season, scoring more points and allowing fewer. They have shut out their last two postseason opponents, Lubbock Coronado and Birdville, by a combined score of 58-0. Ryan’s margin of victory is 31.8 points in four playoff games.
Sophomore quarterback Seth Henigan, son of Ryan head coach Dave Henigan, has completed 68 percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
He leads a host of dynamic playmakers for the Raiders, including top rusher Emani Bailey (1,248 yards and 14 touchdowns), and receiver Billy Bowman Jr. Plus, tight end Drew Sanders lines up at several positions and is verbally committed to Oklahoma.
Ryan, which claimed back-to-back 5A state titles in 2001 and 2002, has a combined 42-2 record over the last three seasons. HP, which claimed consecutive 5A crowns in 2016 and 2017, has a combined 43-3 mark during the same span.