Schager Makes Good on Anticipated Starting Debut
After a long offseason, the state's winningest program finally made its 2020 debut as 5A Division I Highland Park hosted a high scoring Coppell team on Friday night.
Highland Park's season was supposed to start three weeks ago against Austin Westlake in what was considered one of the most anticipated non-district games.
The cancellation of that game and the Scots Week 2 game with Mesquite Horn meant that the program would have to sit in idle for a couple more weeks while their peers around the state were in the midst of competition.
That extra time also meant that Hawaii 2021 QB commit Brayden Schager (6'3, 200) would have to wait a couple more weeks before his long-awaited start as the signal-caller at Highland Park.
Schager's story has been well documented across several platforms this offseason. Instead of transferring to another program, he decided to wait for his turn to accomplish his lifelong goal as the starting quarterback at Highland Park.
"It was definitely a surreal moment for me," Schager said of his start in the 42-36 win. "I've been waiting for this opportunity for my whole life, and when it was pushed back, I was nervous that it might not happen."
After an interception on the game's opening play, Schager and company found a rhythm on offense that resulted in the bombardment of Coppell's defense. This included several big chunk plays as they moved the ball up and down the field in the first half. Highland Park had already amounted 16 first downs and over 342 yards of offense by the halftime break.
"When we finally got out there, it was just football, and I had a lot of fun," Schager said.
Despite a Coppell second-half comeback, Highland Park found a way to hold onto the lead they had the entire night. The Scots will need to play more complete games to compete for the state title in the future. That is something that the leadership of this team is well aware of.
"We have a lot to fix, but I am happy that we got the win against a really good football team," Schager said.
Schager finished 19-of-33 for 325 yards and two touchdowns.
Other Prospect News and Notes:
Complimenting Schager's effort was strong offensive line play led by 2021 Stanford commit OT Jack Leyrer (6'6, 275). Leyrer was a brick wall on the left side of the line for most of the night before sliding over to OC to finish the game.
Even though Coppell trailed 27-8 heading into the break, the Cowboys were able to flip the game's script in the second half. A large part of this second-half surge was due to the Cowboy offense being able to get standouts 2022 WR Anthony Black and 2021 WR KJ Liggins more consistently involved.
Black (6'5,185) exploded onto recruiting the scene this offseason picking up offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Houston, Iowa State, SMU, and more. He rated as three-star on the gridiron, and he's a four-star on the hardwood as well. He put his basketball skill set on full display on a 4th and long in the second half when he went over the top of a Highland Park defender in the end zone for a score that cut the lead to two possessions. Black finished the night with 11 receptions for 105 yards and three touchdowns.
Coppell 2021 QB Ryan Walker (6'0, 170) also had a nice connection with Liggins (5'11, 185) throughout the night. After a slow start, Liggins proved to be a pivotal piece in the comeback that Coppell staged in the second half. On Friday, his performance marked a third straight game that he eclipsed the century mark for receiving yards. Liggins has accounted for 370 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns this season.
Highland Park's defense had a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde type of night, but one consistent spot was the play of Navy 2021 commit ILB Patrick Turner (6'2, 220). Turner has made plays for the Scots' defense for several seasons now. He finished Friday's contest with 11 tackles, including four tackles for loss.
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