Things looked bleak for Highland Park entering the fourth quarter of its Class 5A Division I quarterfinal football game on Saturday.
Tyler had just taken a 21-point lead and the Scots defense had done little to stop the Lions. But with Highland Park facing its largest deficit of the season, Scots quarterback Chandler Morris took over.
Morris accounted for 28 fourth quarter points, including the game winner with 9 seconds left, as the Scots rallied for a 42-35 victory in a thriller at the Ford Center.
Highland Park (14-0), ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press Class 5A state poll, will face No. 3 Denton Ryan (14-0) in the semifinals at noon on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Tyler (10-3) scored with 1:16 left in the third quarter on a 10-yard run by Lions quarterback Devlen Woods to take a 35-14 lead.
From that point Morris and the Scots defense both stepped up.
Morris tossed two scoring passes, one to Benner Page from 6 yards out and another 28-yarder to Bennett Brown to cut Tyler’s lead to 35-28 with 8:18 left in the game. The latter was set up by defensive back Hudson Clark’s second interception of the game that gave the Scots the ball at the Lion’s 40 yard line.
“I just undercut the route...we work on that everyday,” said Clark, whose picks came at crucial times. “We were just trying to chip away down 21. You never want to be in that position but we just fight until the clock hits 0:00.”
A 60-yard punt by Tyler with 6:03 left in the game pinned Highland Park at its own 7, but the Scots weren’t fazed. Morris completed 5 of 5 passes on a 93-yard drive, capped by his 14-yard scoring run that knotted the game at 35 with 3:25 left.
The Lions looked to be in good shape to run out the clock and head to overtime, but the Highland Park defense forced a Tyler punt with 20 seconds left in the game. After 20 yards in penalties on the Lions, a short punt gave the Scots the ball at the Tyler 46.
On the ensuing play Morris found Finn Corwin wide open down the right sideline. Corwin, who had 9 catches for 128 yards, was pushed out at the 1 after a 45-yard gain.
Morris bulled in from there to take a 42-35 lead with 9 seconds left. He accounted for all six Highland Park touchdowns and completed 10 of his final 11 passes of the game.
“Just go out there and play Scot football,” said Morris who threw for 299 yards completing 19 of 32 passes and rushed for 84 more. “We knew what we were capable of, and we had done it all year. Coach Allen just told us to put our heads down, go to work and to look at the scoreboard at the end of the game and we’ll be on top. That’s exactly what happened.”
Highland Park, which won its 29th game in a row, was fortunate to only be down 21-14 at the half.
Tyler scored the first two times it had the ball on a 13-yard run by running back Roderick Hawkins and a dazzling 64-yard scramble/run from Woods.
Woods led Tyler with 151 rushing yards on 11 carries and had 146 passing yards. Hawkins added 147 rushing yards on 22 carries for the Lions.
Highland Park answered the first score with an 18-yard Chandler Morris to Ben Smith scoring pass to tie the game at 7 with 7:02 left in the first quarter. Page set up the score with a 22-yard run.
Trailing 14-7, Highland Park was forced to punt and Tyler was on the move again. The Lions drove from their own 25 to the Highland Park 12, but Clark picked off a Tyler pass at the Highland Park 1.
The Scots drove the 99 yards in 14 plays and tied the game at 14 when Morris carried it in over left end from 31 yards out.
The Lions answered immediately. Facing a 4th and 1 from the Highland Park 49, Hawkins took a handoff on a dive up the middle, hoping for a first down. Instead the senior found open field and gave Tyler a 21-14 lead with 1:11 left in the second quarter.
Highland Park dodged another bullet following a punt on its next series. With 17 seconds left, Hawkins darted 49 yards from the Lions’ 49 to the Highland Park 2, but the play was called back because of a holding penalty.
“Instinct and I just have the greatest teammates,” Morris said of this team’s never-say-die attitude. “We just did a great job tonight. Hats off to John Tyler. That’s the best team we’ve played all year.”