LUCAS — With the schedule revealing the start of the District 15-5A schedule, Highland Park knew it was time to flip the switch.
The Scots responded in a big way, unleashing their best all-around game of the season in a 50-7 drubbing of Lovejoy on Friday at Leopard Stadium.
John Stephen Jones threw four touchdown passes and ran for another before exiting in the third quarter, while the defense came within a minute of posting its first shutout of the year.
“We used the first three games to find out our weaknesses, and we played some really strong competition,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “We went to work, and it showed.”
It was a dominating performance by HP on both sides of scrimmage. The Scots (3-1, 1-0) put the game away after scoring four second-quarter touchdowns to assume a 36-0 advantage by halftime.
Meanwhile, Lovejoy didn’t even manage a first down against the HP defense until 4:17 remained in the first half, and the Leopards trailed 29-0. Lovejoy committed two turnovers and punted six times.
Jones passed for 251 yards in the first half. The Leopards tallied just 54 total yards as a team before the break.
“We made some big plays in the passing game. That caused the score to get pretty lopsided in a hurry,” Allen said. “John Stephen was making good decisions — when to run the ball, when to throw the ball, and who to throw it to — and our offensive line did a great job protecting him.”
Leading 9-0, the Scots took over at the Lovejoy 14-yard line after a punting miscue by the Leopards (0-4, 0-1). Three plays later, Jones scampered into the end zone from 12 yards out.
Following a Lovejoy three-and-out, HP needed just three plays to score again, when Jones connected with Paxton Alexander on a 58-yard pass.
On their next drive, the Scots went 75 yards in just six plays, capped by a 22-yard scoring pass from Jones to Cade Saustad, and the lead ballooned to 29-0 midway through the second quarter.
Finn Corwin caught a pair of touchdown passes from Jones to further pad the margin — a 25-yard reception late in the second quarter and a 58-yarder in the third. Corwin has a team-high five touchdowns this season.
The first of those scores was set up by a Colby Hopkins fumble recovery, after Marshall Ballard stripped the ball on a sack of Lovejoy quarterback Carson Collins.
“Our defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. We got pressure on the quarterback and played great pass defense,” Allen said. “We didn’t give them a big play. Our guys kept everything in front of them and made some good tackles.”
Earlier, Benner Page capped HP’s impressive opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown plunge, and Matteo Cordray booted a 39-yard field goal.
The lopsided margin allowed the Scots to rotate their reserves into the game and utilize its depth chart generously after halftime. In the fourth quarter, Ryan Khetan intercepted a pass near midfield and returned it to the Lovejoy 19, setting up a short touchdown run by Cameron Reeves.
Lovejoy’s only touchdown came on its final possession, with backup quarterback Blake Motl throwing a 13-yard scoring pass to Matthew Kline. It capped a 16-play, 84-yard drive that consumed more than seven minutes.
The late score provided a rare highlight for the beleaguered Leopards, who averaged only three yards per play against an aggressive HP defense. Collins, who returned to the lineup after missing the past two games with an injury, was limited to 93 passing yards. Dynamic receiver Chase Van Wagoner had just five catches for 32 yards.
Jones completed 14 of 20 throws for 320 yards, almost all of which came in the first half. He also paced a modest Scots rushing attack with 37 yards on three attempts. Scully Jenevein grabbed a team-high five receptions.
After playing three of their first four games on the road, the Scots will return home next week to face unbeaten North Forney.