For Highland Park, the 2017 season has started almost identically to the 2016 season — with two solid wins and one tough loss during nondistrict play.
The Scots are hoping the current season also has an identical ending to the prior one, which culminated in a Class 5A Division I state title.
But first, HP will try to repeat its District 15-5A championship. And that quest begins with a trip to Lovejoy on Friday for its third road game in four weeks.
The Scots (2-1) rallied from a sluggish start for a 34-32 win over Mansfield Timberview last week in its final tuneup for league play. It marked another strong performance by the HP offense, which has surpassed the 30-point mark in all three games this year.
John Stephen Jones threw four touchdown passes and Paxton Alexander accounted for 199 all-purpose yards to lead the Scots. Matteo Cordray’s 32-yard field goal with 28 seconds left provided the winning margin.
Through three games, Jones already has amassed 819 passing yards and 11 touchdowns, compared to just two interceptions. Cade Saustad and Finn Corwin each have three scoring catches.
The Leopards (0-3) should be improved in their second season under head coach Todd Ford. Lovejoy posted just three wins last season and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in the nine-year history of the program.
Any progress isn’t reflected in the nondistrict record for Lovejoy, which includes lopsided losses to powerhouses such as Argyle and Frisco Lone Star.
Injuries haven’t helped the Leopards. Starting quarterback Carson Collins, who passed for 338 yards in the season opener, has been sidelined for the past two weeks, when the offense has managed a combined 17 points. Running back Jahi Rainey also has been banged up.
Chase Van Wagoner has been a bright spot for Lovejoy, with 242 receiving yards and two touchdowns. And linebacker Bumper Pool, who has verbally committed to Arkansas, is one of the best defenders in the state.