ARLINGTON – As Chandler Morris walked off the field at AT&T Stadium clutching the 5A Division I Offensive MVP plaque, he approached Longview’s Haynes King warming up.
“Go win you one,” Morris told King after the Highland Park quarterback had thrown for 262 yards and three first-half touchdowns in a 27-17 victory over Alvin Shadow Creek.
A few hours later Saturday in front of a boisterous crowd of 48,421, King did just that with a transcendent performance that will go down in Longview lore.
With the Lobos searching for their first state title since the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, the gangly quarterback threw for 423 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-34 classic over Beaumont West Brook.
Morris and King are sons of prominent head coaches who had plenty in common before Saturday’s triumphs. Both are juniors who’ve spent their entire childhood growing up on sidelines.
Both are natural leaders who were ready for this stage before. Chandler watched his father Chad – now the head coach at Arkansas – win back-to-back 4A Division I state championships in 2008-09 while at Lake Travis.
Haynes King attended those two title games a decade ago at Baylor’s Floyd Casey Stadium. His father was on the losing sideline as Longview was unable to close the deal twice against the Cavaliers.
“He made that comment to me after the 2008 and ’09 state championship games that he was going to find a way for us to win it,” Longview coach John King recalled Saturday. “When you’re 8 years old, I guess I didn’t put too much stock in that.”
So it was fitting both Morris and King left AT&T Stadium with title-producing performances in their first full seasons as varsity starters. King, who took over the Lobos’ offense midway through 2017, guided the them to the state semifinals as a sophomore, but there was another step that needed to be taken.
Morris was saddled with the tall task of replacing John Stephen Jones, who carried the Scots to championships against Temple and Manvel.
Morris still hadn’t seen his father about an hour after Highland Park began celebrating its third straight title, but he recalled what Chad had told him earlier in the week as he prepared for Shadow Creek.
“He said just go be yourself. It has worked for 15 weeks this season and don’t try and do too much,” Chandler recalled. “Go have fun, look around the stadium and embrace it. And breathe.”
Truthfully, Morris didn’t have to do too much because the Scots’ swarming defense delivered nine sacks and harassed Shadow Creek quarterback Jamarian George nearly every time he dropped back to pass. Morris threw three touchdown passes in the first half, but Highland Park wasn’t in much danger after halftime.
That wasn’t the case for Longview, which trailed for much of the second half against a dangerous group from West Brook. King’s 25-yard touchdown run in the third quarter brought the Lobos within 28-26 with 3:43 left in the third quarter, but the Bruins answered minutes later.
When King overthrew an open receiver in the end zone with less than nine minutes remaining, Longview settled for a field goal and green-clad fans had to wonder if that missed opportunity would prove costly.
But the Lobos got a defensive stop and then King delivered a pinpoint 54-yard strike to Kyas Moore that led to the game-winning touchdown with 4:42 left.
Soon after kneeling out the clock, a tearful Haynes made sure to find his father as the two embraced in the middle of a chaotic scene.
Being a coach’s son isn’t always easy, but both quarterbacks benefitted from their fathers’ profession. Chandler didn’t have a specific favorite moment from his youth, but he enjoyed hanging out with a stout list of signal-callers that includes Lake Travis’ Garrett Gilbert and Michael Brewer plus Jevan Snead at Stephenville and both Deshaun Watson and Tajh Boyd at Clemson.
“Just being around those great quarterbacks, it was fun to see that,” Morris said. “It made me have a chip on my shoulder to go be one of those and I always looked up to them.”
Meanwhile, Haynes King may have been Longview’s ball boy for several years, but he didn’t race around the sidelines oblivious to what was happening in front of him.
“I’d be watching games and take notes, how to handle that atmosphere,” he said. “I believe it helped me in the long run.”
Morris and King have an abundance of Division I suitors who’ll continue to crave their athletic abilities and leadership. Inside the bowels of AT&T Stadium Saturday, they both stood against the UIL’s backdrop at their press conferences as older players plopped down in front of microphones.
“Seniors, y’all can sit,” Morris said subtly.
But there was nothing subtle about what Chandler Morris and Haynes King accomplished Saturday. The two are casual friends who texted after the state quarterfinals but hadn’t talked leading up to this week.
They embraced after Morris had already answered the bell. Then King went out and got his.
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