Late rally comes up short for Sharks quest for state title

SHADOW CREEK — One of the chief characteristics of the Shadow Creek Sharks during the 2018 football season has been the ability to come from behind when needed to pull out a win. Unfortunately, the Sharks came up a little short in the Class 5A Division I state championship game against two-time state champion Dallas Highland Park.

Highland Park was looking to three-peat and the Sharks were looking for their first title in their very first varsity season.

But one thing that didn't come up short and that was the effort of the Sharks and their never-say-die attitude.

While there was heartbreak and tears at the end of the game on the Shadow Creek sideline when Highland Park held on for the 27-17 win, there was no reason for any Shark player to hang his head as the Scots were in a battle and they had to fight till the end to defend their state crown.

The win makes Highland Park the first team, in the second-largest classification, to win at least three-straight state titles since Aledo and Austin Lake Travis did it back in 2011. It's also the first time the Scots, who have six state titles to their name, have completed a perfect, 16-game season. The 2005 state-champion team went 15-0.

Shadow Creek ended its season at 15-1. The Scots defeated a Brazoria County team for the title for the second year in a row after outlasting Manvel in a thriller last season. Shadow Creek was trying to become just the third first-year program in the state's history to win a state title in the debut season. Beaumont West Brook did so in 1982 and Lubbock Estacado in 1968.

The Scots set a record across all classifications for most sacks in a UIL state final, finishing with nine. Prince Dorbah, an athletic, long-armed junior who's drawn the desire of the best colleges in the country, led the team win four. He was named the game's Defensive MVP.

Junior quarterback Chandler Morris, in his first season as the Scots starter and son of Arkansas head football coach Chad Morris, was named the game's offensive MVP before a partisan crowd of 28,792 at AT&T Stadium. Morris completed 23-of-35 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns.

The Scots' defense also grabbed four interceptions. Whit Winfield had two, including the game-sealing interception on Shadow Creek's final drive. Hudson Clark and Colby Hopkins also had picks. However, the Sharks had their record-setting moment when quarterback Jamarian George took a snap at his own one-yard line, retreated five-yards deep in his own end zone, and then found a hole and raced 99-yards for a Shadow Creek touchdown to close the gap to 27-17 with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter while giving life to the Sharks. Sophomore QB Kyron Drones scored the two-point conversion.

George's run was the longest run in UIL state championship history of any class. It beats a 98-yarder from Waco's Jarred Salubi against La Marque in 2007 as the longest in state title game history.

"That one was really long," Shadow Creek head coach Brad Butler said. "But he's kind of made a habit the last few weeks of just pulling the thing down and being able to find a crease. He's so dangerous once he gets a little bit of open grass. I knew if we could get a block or two that he'd be hard to handle."

Highland Park got on the scoreboard on their opening drive as Morris hit Bennett Brown on an 8-yard scoring strike with 11:04 showing on the clock for a quick 7-0 lead.

With 6:06 in the first quarter, Shadow Creek found pay dirt as Jared Jackson caught a beautiful 14-yard pass in the corner of the end zone from George, but the PAT was no good. Shadow Creek's regular placekicker was in Africa with his family in a planned Christmas family vacation scheduled months prior to the championship contest.

The Scots scored again on a 3-yard toss from Morris to Sam Morse for a 14-6 lead with 2:26 remaining in the first frame.

Shadow Creek would close the gap to 14-9 after a 24-yard Ian Hart field goal with 11:48 left in the second quarter.

Highland Park would add 10 more points in the first half on a 24-yard scoring pass from Morris to Finn Corwin and a Wesley Winters 36-yard field goal making the score 24-9 at halftime.

The only score for the Scots in the second half came on a 22-yard field goal with 6:15 left in the third period for a 27-9 advantage.

Shadow Creek still was in the game in the final frame when George made his record-setting score 27-17, but a late game turnover by the Sharks shut down their comeback effort.

Shadow Creek gained 142 total yards through 54 plays minus George's big run. George and Shadow Creek had plenty of fans and respect from the Highland Park side.

"They're a tough football team," Highland Park head coach Randy Allen said. "Very good on defense and playmakers on offense. It was a hard-fought game. I thought Shadow Creek had a great team and I thought coach Butler did a great job getting them ready for this game."

Allen is the fourth-winningest coach in Texas with 392 victories in his 43-year coaching career. He has been at Highland Park the last 20 seasons.

There is a very close connection between Butler and Allen as the Shadow Creek mentor was an All-State quarterback at Brownwood High School and his coach was Highland Park coach Randy Allen.

"I've known Brad (Butler) and his family for many years and he was not only a great player for me in high school, but he is one of great young coaches in high school," said Allen. "I'm very proud of him and his young team."