Triad to face stern test from undefeated Highland

News-DemocratSeptember 27, 2013 

— One team has sizzled, the other has sputtered, but that won't diminish the longtime Highland-Triad rivalry.

Highland, ranked ninth in the Class 5A state poll, will visit the Knights at 7 p.m. Friday in a Mississippi Conference game.

The Bulldogs have dominated opponents, outscoring them 197-46. Triad has allowed a league-high 140 points, but gained traction last week with a dramatic 41-32 win over Civic Memorial.

"They're really good and we're really young," Triad coach Paul Bassler said of the meeting with Highland. "I hope we can get out of there without losing any kids. They're big and they have a lot of seniors. This is the class they've been banking on."

Highland coach Jim Warnecke realizes that people expect his team to win, but said the Bulldogs aren't looking past the Knights.

"Usually, we're on the other end of this thing," he said. "From our perspective, where we usually are --with a younger team, an underdog team --we look at it like we do throw records out the window. When you're the underdog ... it makes it that much more of a goal to beat that rival team.

"They're coming off a big win at home, a come-from-behind win, and they're going to be home against us. There's a lot of positive things they can talk about in their program, and I fully expect and anticipate that they'll be ready to go Friday night."

Friday's game: Highland (4-0, 1-0) at Triad (1-3, 1-0), 7 p.m.

Last meeting: Triad nipped the Bulldogs 20-19 last Oct. 5 in Highland as quarterback Jason Barbour hit Clayton Monroe with a 77-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

Players to watch: Highland senior quarterback Mack Waldman is 32-for-48 for 673 yards and five TDs, while running backs Andrew Winning (45 carries, 545 yards, seven TDs), a sophomore, and Gage Geiger (54 carries, 517 yards, 13 TDs), a junior, have been stellar. Division I recruits Tanner Farmer (Nebraska), a senior, and Nick Czar (Army), a junior, anchor the offensive line.

"They can hit you from any direction," Bassler said. "They're fast, they've got good skill kids and they play really well defensively. Even with us playing a perfect game, we're still kind of looking up a mountain."

Barbour, a senior, has 74 carries for 414 yards and four TDs for Triad. Adam Nelson, a sophomore, has a team-high seven TDs.

Guessing game: Warnecke hopes the Bulldogs are ready to attack different defense schemes than Triad has used thus far.

"When you're a middle-of-the-road type of offense or team, generally, you get what you're preparing for. A defense isn't going to change too many things for you," Warnecke said. "But when you're putting up a lot of points like we are this year, everybody's going to try something different on you. ... Each week, it seems like somebody's doing something different against us that they haven't shown on film."

A long wait: The Bulldogs, who can become eligible for the postseason with a win, are looking for their first outright MVC championship since 1989, when Warnecke was 8.

"That's our driving force this year," Warnecke said.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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