The Highland football Bulldogs had a complete performance after dominating all phases of the game en route to shredding the visiting Jerseyville Panthers 42-7 to open Mississippi Valley Conference play Friday night.
Highland (4-0, 1-0 MVC), which is ranked third in Class 5A, racked up 505 yards in total offense — including rolling up 323 yards on the ground — while the Bulldogs’ defense forced three turnovers and muzzled the Panthers (1-3, 0-1) to just 199 yards.
“I thought it was a real good football game by our team tonight,” Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke said. “I was really proud of our performance tonight across the board — offense, defense and special teams. I thought it was one of the more complete games we’ve played. I know in week one we did some good things (in a 47-6 win over Alton), but it was nice after not being as complete in week two and week three to come back here tonight and be so solid in all phases of the game.”
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Junior running back Brady Feldmann rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Feldmann started the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown reception that started the scoring 10:41 mark of the second quarter. Feldmann then went on to score TD gallops of 5 and 73 yards.
“I can’t do anything without the O-line; they had a bunch of big holes to run through, and it makes my job a lot easier,” Feldmann said. “Our offense is back on track, and the defense shut them down, so it’s a very good feeling. We feel like we’re very hard to stop right now.”
The offensive line consisted of sophomore left tackle Trevor Zobrist, senior left guard Colten Knebel, senior Dylan Rolfingsmeier replaced senior center Mitchell Widman, who left early with a knee injury, senior right guard Dylan Knebel and sophomore right tackle Wes Schmollinger.
“I thought he ran really hard tonight,” Warnecke said of Feldmann. “He ran through some tackles and made that first guy miss, which is something you always preach to the tailback spot. And those big boys up front deserve a lot of credit. We’ve been working hard to be better and better and it showed tonight because the offensive line chewed it up tonight.”
Senior quarterback Garrett Mart completed 14 of 21 passes for 182 yards with three TDs. Marti threw his first interception of the season on HHS’ first possession. However, it mattered little as he more than he made up for it the rest of the game. In addition, he now has 14 touchdown tosses compared to just one pick.
Junior wideout Sam LaPorta had four catches for 85 yards and two scores, which came from 23 and 4 yards out, respectively.
“It’s hard to stop that No.1 (LaPorta),” Warnecke said. “We’re a team. We’re 11 — and we all talk about that — but I am glad he is on our team.”
Junior running back Bailey Trame also got in on the act as he rushed eight times for 60 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown lunge to start the running clock with 3:46 remaining in the third quarter.
Highland’s defensive performance was stellar as well, limiting Jerseyville to 199 yards in total offense, forcing three turnovers and shutting Jerseyville out, except only after the Bulldogs had already started the continuously running clock at 42-0.
The Panthers’ lone score came when senior quarterback Drew Sauerwein scrambled and ended up throwing a 34-yard TD reception to senior Blake Wittman.
Other than that, Highland’s defense played almost a perfect game, stuffing Jerseyville’s running game to only 50 yards on 19 rushes and intercepting Sauerwein three times.
Junior defensive back Jacob Kruse had two picks and senior linebacker Seby Wolf had the other interception. Wolf also returned his pick 48 yards ,and he and Kruse also added three solo tackles.
Senior linebacker Kyle Lane led the tackling corps with six solo tackles and four tackle assists.
Senior strong safety Jack Etter also registered six solo tackles, while senior defensive end Isaiah Harmon (two assists) and senior defensive lineman Josh Burke each recorded five solo tackles. Four of Harmon’s tackles went for losses and three of Burke’s tackles were behind the line of scrimmage.
In addition, linebackers Noah Schmitt, a senior, and Reese May, a junior, each added four solo tackles.
Big showdown up next
Next up for Highland will be a date at arch rival Triad. Conference supremacy will once again be on the line as both teams enter with identical perfect 4-0 records after the Knights blitzed Civic Memorial 46-8 in their MVC opener Friday night.
“Coach (Paul) Bassler does a good job over there, and they’ve got a lot of seniors,” Warnecke said. “I think it’s going to be a much-anticipated football game, but we’re not going to get caught up in all the hype. We’re going to prepare, and we’ve got goals, just like they do, I am sure. I know they are going to bring it on Friday night, and we will, too. We know what they do, and they know what we do, and I think the team that plays the better game is going to come out with the victory.”