TROY — Faced with an early deficit Friday night, the Highland Bulldogs responded.
Triad grabbed an 8-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Bulldogs then poured it on in a 43-8 victory in a Mississippi Valley Conference game.
Senior quarterback Mack Waldman led the attack with four passing touchdowns -- two to junior Logan Kharibian and one apiece to juniors Logan Geiger and Brendan Sands --as Highland (5-0, 2-0), ranked ninth in the Class 5A state poll, became playoff-eligible.
"This is a real big deal," said Waldman, a transfer from Mater Dei High School in Breese who was 13-for-19 for 169 yards. "It means a lot to the fans and all the alumni. I couldn't have done it without the big guys up front. I could have baked a cake back there.
"Those receivers getting open, I mean, every throw I made, they were wide-open. So it was all the linemen and receivers, not just me."
Waldman's TD strike to Geiger covered 68 yards and put the Bulldogs ahead for good at 15-8 with 6:19 left in the first half.
Waldman's other TD passes went for 8 yards and 11 yards to Kharibian and 13 yards to Sands. Junior Gage Geiger, Logan's cousin, had rushing touchdowns of 20 yards and 30 yards.
"Part of our game plan was throwing the football," Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke said. "We had a couple of miscues, but I thought, all in all, it was a very positive night through the air. I was very impressed with the balance we had tonight."
Triad sophomore Adam Nelson scored on a 35-yard run with 5:15 left in the first quarter. After a two-point conversion pass from senior quarterback Jason Barbour to senior Koty Wigginton, the Knights held an 8-0 lead.
Geiger's 20-yard run and a two-point conversion pass from Waldman to senior Blake Hustedde tied the game at 8 with 11:53 to play in the first half and started Highland's 43-point barrage.
Triad, after a long return on the ensuing kickoff, had the ball at Highland's 22-yard line. But three penalties pushed back the Knights (1-4, 1-1), who were forced to punt.
"Not being able to take advantage of that long kickoff return ... broke our back," Triad coach Paul Bassler said. "If we could have gone into the locker room tied or whatever."
Instead, Waldman hooked up with Logan Geiger for the go-ahead touchdown, and Gage Geiger's 30-yard TD run made it 22-8 with 8:05 remaining in the third quarter. Waldman's first TD pass to Kharibian extended the lead to 29-8 at the 5:06 mark of the third quarter.
Tempers flared at midfield after the game as both coaching staffs exchanged words. Triad was displeased that the Bulldogs, with the game in hand, were still attempting passes down the field late in the game.
"I guess you just have to know when to throw out the white flag," Bassler said. "We were done. It was obvious to everybody in the entire stadium. So if (Warnecke) embarrassed anybody, he embarrassed himself by playing (on), throwing passes and throwing screens, trying to get to 50.
"I don't know if they felt like they needed to beat us by a bigger margin and were frustrated that they weren't."
Warnecke was glad the situation didn't get out of hand.
"I hate to see that stuff happen," he said. "I've got all the respect for Coach Bassler and what he's done in his tenure with this program. It was a confrontational thing. Cooler heads prevailed. We were all adults about it. The most important thing is that we're role models for these players. I'm glad it didn't get any more than that."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.