Willpower: Senior Will White shines for struggling Highland Park

Highland Park’s Will White, who rushed for 298 yards and had 446 total yards last week against Topeka West, has been a diamond in the rough for a Scot program that has lost 31 straight games. (Brad Shaffer/Special to The Capital-Journal)

It’s been more than three years but Highland Park senior football standout Will White has no trouble remembering Sept. 12, 2014.

 

On that night, White saw action as a freshman as the Scots snapped a 20-game losing streak with a 60-26 non-league win over Kansas City-Harmon.

“I have won a game,” White said with a chuckle. “You can’t forget something like that.”

That win could turn out to be the only varsity victory of White’s high school career, with the Scots in the throes of a 31-game losing streak and sure to be a heavy underdog in their final two games of the regular season and the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.

But losing hasn’t diminished White’s love for the game or his motivation to try to do everything he can to help the Scots.

“It’s more of a pride thing because I feel like God gives his toughest battles to certain people and I just try to think of it that way,” White said. “And I always try to keep in mind to have fun and enjoy the little moments.”

White particularly enjoyed last Friday night when he turned in one of the top individual performances in Highland Park history in a 43-26 Centennial League loss to Topeka West.

White, normally a wide receiver who has been pressed into duty at quarterback the last two games, rushed for 298 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries against West and threw for 148 yards and a touchdown, finishing the night with 446 total yards.

He also relished the fact that the Scots, who suited up just 23 players, were competitive throughout the game against the Chargers after losing their previous five games by an average of 49.4 points.

“It was pretty motivational, looking at the scoreboard and thinking we had a chance still,” White said.

White’s performance last week only reinforced what Highland Park coach Faron Kraft already knew about his 6-foot, 180-pounder, who was also a third-team All-City pick in basketball a year ago.

“I’ve told everybody I think he’s one of the best football players, best athletes, in the Centennial League,” Kraft said. “I’ll put him up against anybody from any other team. You give him some of the players around him and some of the big boys in front of him like some of the other kids have and I think you’d be astounded at what he could accomplish.”

Despite Highland Park’s struggles, college football recruiters have taken notice of White, with Washburn already offering a scholarship while most of the schools in the MIAA and a couple of Division I schools have shown interest.

He will eventually have to decide between playing football or basketball in college, but regardless of which sport he chooses Kraft said White’s future is bright.

“I would be happy to take two more (of him), it would make a world of difference,” Kraft said. “He’s a good kid. He comes from a great family, a family that cares and a family that pushes him but on top of that he’s a kid that pushes himself.

“I think the key factor was two summers ago when he made a commitment in the weight room over the summer and he just exploded. He got bigger, stronger, faster. It showed in football last year and I think it showed in basketball. This year I think it’s all coming to fruition.”

FRIDAY’S CITY GAMES

(All games at 7 p.m.)

SHAWNEE HEIGHTS (5-1) at HIGHLAND PARK (0-6)

Shawnee Heights earned a share of the Centennial League title with last week’s 27-14 win over Hayden while Highland Park is coming off a 43-26 loss to Topeka West. Heights senior Trey Jenkins is second in the city in rushing (138 carries, 663 yards) while senior Mitchell Lady is sixth in total offense (810 yards). Highland Park senior Will White ranks fifth in the city in rushing (49 carries, 397 yards) and ninth in total offense (608 yards).

WASHBURN RURAL (2-4) at SEAMAN (4-2)

Seaman beat Emporia 27-13 last Friday while Washburn Rural dropped a 59-7 decision to Topeka High. Seaman junior Kobe Jones is seventh in the city in total offense (739 yards) while senior Dalton Temmen is seventh in rushing (73 carries, 372 yards). Washburn Rural senior Michael Schurig is the city passing leader (72 of 131, 1,009 yards, 7 TDs) while junior Preston Williams is second in pass receiving (33 catches, 482 yards, 5 TDs).

TOPEKA WEST (1-5) at TOPEKA HIGH (5-1)

At Hummer Sports Park

Topeka High clinched a share of the Centennial League championship with a 59-7 win over Washburn Rural last Friday while Topeka West picked up its first win of the season, 43-26 win over Highland Park. High sophomore Da’Vonshai Harden leads the city in total offense (1,264 yards) while sophomore Ky Thomas is the city rushing leader (112 carries, 1067 yards) and scoring (17 TDs). Topeka West junior Hunter McDaniel is third in the city in passing (64 of143, 928 yards, 9 TDs) and senior Elliot Mehrens is fourth in receiving (20 catches, 305 yards). West senior receiver Chris Ellis is expected to be out for the year (collarbone).

SANTA FE TRAIL (5-1) at HAYDEN (2-4)

Friday is the 4A-II district opener for Santa FeTrail and Hayden, with the Wildcats finishing as the state runner-up a year ago. Hayden senior Sampson Huston ranks second in the city in passing (75 of 139, 987 yards, 10 TDs) while senior DeShawn Hanika is the city receiving leader (34 catches, 511 yards, 7 TDs). Wildcat senior Brent Peavler is sixth in rushing (40 carries, 372 yards). In five games, Santa Fe Trail junior Will Herren has 840 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.

RICK’S PICKS

Shawnee Heights 45, Highland Park 12

Seaman 21, Washburn Rural 20

Topeka High 52, Topeka West 14

Hayden 34, Santa Fe Trail 21

Last week: 2-2 (.500 pct.). Season: 20-8 (.714 pct.).

NFL Pick'Em
 

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