For a regular season matchup in early September, this is about as good as it gets on the Class 5A level – No. 1 versus No. 3 in the state.
Highland Park, the three-time defending state champions, has been battle-tested early on against the likes of Rockwall and Mesquite Horn and will face another grueling test tonight when undefeated Lone Star pays the Scots a visit.
These two juggernauts squared off a year ago in one of the more bizarre contests of 2018 in which Highland Park booted a last-second field goal to round-up the Rangers, 10-7.
It truly was a defensive battle that featured 13 punts, three turnovers and two missed field goals, but the rematch this time around has the makings of an offensive slugfest.
Through two games, the Scots are averaging a whopping 59 points and 606 yards per game, including a 66-point outburst in a Week One win over Rockwall. Lone Star has lit the scoreboard up as well scoring 65 points per game after hanging 75 on Denton in a shutout victory last Friday.
With that said, Lone Star head coach Jeff Rayburn has no idea what to expect when the two meet again tonight.
“I don’t know if it will be a high-scoring or low-scoring game, but I do know it will be two great football teams getting after it,” he said. “It’s going to be a playoff atmosphere, and a game like this is really going to help us prepare for later down the road.”
The playoff atmosphere at Highlander Stadium for this matchup will certainly play a factor. Highland Park has not lost a home game since 2015, when it was blown out by Pulaski Academy, a program based out of Arkansas.
Other than that rare defeat, the Scots have not squandered a game on their home turf to an in-state foe since 1998, but a team with “Lone Star” as its name looks to buck that trend.
“Wherever you play them it’s going to be a tough battle,” Rayburn said. “Nobody in this state has beaten them in their place in a long time and there’s a reason for that. If there was a recipe to beating Highland Park someone would have cooked it up by now.”
If Rayburn and the Rangers want to achieve something that hasn’t been done in 21 years, they will have to try and slow down Highland Park senior quarterback Chandler Morris.
The Arkansas commit and son of Arkansas head coach Chad Morris, is one of the top quarterbacks in the country and has backed that claim up with outstanding play thus far in 2019.
In the 66-59 shootout victory against the Yellow Jackets in Week One, the four-star recruit put up video game-like numbers with 664 total yards and nine touchdowns. He then followed that up with four more scores against Horn, and Rayburn knows keeping him out of the end zone is priority No. 1.
“He may be one of the best in the country and has a lot of weapons around him that he utilizes,” he said. “He’s the one that makes that thing go and can do with his arm or his legs. He’s also smart out there, makes great decisions and really leads that team.”
Lone Star will feature a different quarterback from last year in sophomore Garret Rangel, who has also posted ridiculous stats this season. In just two career starts, Rangel has thrown for 821 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions and appears to be the real deal for this Rangers squad.
However, his first true test of his young varsity career comes tonight in a hostile environment against the top 5A program in the state.
“Rangel is a calm, confident kid,” Rayburn said. “He has put the work in, so I don’t think there is any doubt in his mind he is going to go be successful. When you go play a team like Highland Park there is going to be some adversity whether you’re a sophomore or a senior, and it’s about how you handle that adversity and move on.”
Kickoff between Lone Star and Highland Park is set for 7:30 p.m. tonight at Highlander Stadium.