For all intents and purposes, Highland’s season opener against Alton was over by halftime.
The Bulldogs roared to a 35-6 lead and mauled the visiting Redbirds 47-6 Friday night.
Highland got a turnover on the first play of the game as senior linebacker Seby Wolf recovered a fumble deep into Alton territory and the offense parlayed into a touchdown one minute, 47 seconds into the game.
The Bulldogs never slowed down, getting a continuous clock with 2:29 still left in the third quarter.
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Despite being the season opener, Highland senior quarterback Garrett Marti looked in mid-season form. He completed 18 of 26 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns, with 256 of the yards through the air coming in the first half. Marti also rushed six times for 67 yards and a score.
And other than a 67-yard bomb from Alton senior quarterback Taylor Price to senior wide receiver Kevin Caldwell Jr. late in the first quarter, Highland’s defense was just as impressive as its offense in shutting Alton’s offense down.
“My biggest thing is that I want to hit that completion percentage every game, that’s my goal,” Marti said. “And I love watching our defense play, it gets me hyped up and ready to go back out there and pound the rock hit the receivers passing the ball. Getting that turnover on the first play of the game got us all hyped up and that changed the momentum of the game right off the start.”
Marti’s favorite targets were juniors wideouts Sam LaPorta and Jacob Willis. LaPorta hauled in five receptions for 101 yards and one TD while Willis had two catches for 86 yards, highlighted by a 77-yard TD reception in the first quarter to help make it 14-0.
“We stuck to our plan of getting the ball in the air a little bit more,” Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke said. “We’ve got some weapons out there and I felt like we did a good job of calling and executing the offense that we want to bring out in the 2017 season.
“Week one always worries every coach because a lot of things can happen, but we had some great individual plays and as a unit it was a solid performance.”
Junior running back Brady Feldmann led the Highland ground game with 69 yards and one TD. He also had a 17-yard TD reception to open the scoring in the game. His rushing TD made it 20-0 late in the first quarter.
Also on offense for Highland, senior receiver Cameron Altadonna had five receptions for 51yards, junior receiver Jack Etter added three catches for 37 yards and one score, and senior running back Isaiah Harmon ran four times for 17 yards and one TD.
Leading the defensive charge were senior linebacker Kyle Lane with 10 solo tackles and one quarterback sack for a loss of 15 yards, and senior defensive lineman Josh Burke with five solo tackles, four for losses, and one sack.
Laporta was key on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs.
“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves that we can go out there and do that every game,” LaPorta said. “We have been working hard all summer and we’ve been grinding and lifting since January. We’ve got key returners on both sides of the ball who know what they’re doing so it was a team effort. And Garrett (Marti) was a beast tonight.”
Highland next plays host to another Southwestern Conference opponent in Belleville East next Friday while Alton will host Quincy.