Highland Park players and fans have become so accustomed to winning — 31 games in a row, to be exact — that they might have forgotten about the last time the Scots lost.
That was on Sept. 1, 2017, when Rockwall staged a late comeback on its home field to stun HP in a 53-49 thriller. The Scots went on to win their second of three consecutive Class 5A Division I state titles that season, so perhaps it wasn’t a big deal.
Nevertheless, HP and Rockwall will renew their season-opening rivalry for the fourth straight year on Friday, at the same site where the Yellowjackets earned that win two years ago.
Only a few of the players from that game are still around, but neither program has diminished in quality. HP returns both the offensive and defensive MVPs from the state championship game eight months ago, while Rockwall has significant postseason aspirations at the 6A level. So another nailbiter is certainly possible.
Dual-threat quarterback Chandler Morris returns for HP after a stellar junior campaign in which he passed for more than 4,000 yards with 46 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also is the team’s top returning rusher after scoring 20 times on the ground. This summer, Morris verbally committed to Arkansas, where his father, Chad, is the head coach.
Although many of his top targets have graduated, Drew Scott caught seven touchdown passes a year ago, and Ben Smith was second on the team with 504 receiving yards. Hunter Heath steps in as the starting running back after amassing seven scores in 2018.
Dominant defensive end Prince Dorbah will anchor an undersized but aggressive HP defense that allowed 14 or fewer points in 10 of its 16 victories last season, including four shutouts. Dorbah, a senior who is verbally committed to Texas, will be joined by an experienced group of linebackers.
The Scots will be tested by an explosive Rockwall offense led by receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, whose 232 receiving yards last year were the most by any HP opponent. The Ohio State commit finished the season with 97 catches for 1,828 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The Yellowjackets have advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs in each of the past six years. Last season, Rockwall finished 8-3 and lost in the Region II area round to Allen.
New quarterback Braedyn Locke will replace Minnesota signee Jacob Clark, trying to maintain the efficiency of an offense that scored at least 35 points in every game last season.