Belleville East had enough offense to hang with the state-ranked Highland Bulldogs for a half.
But a balanced offense led by Highland quarterback Garrett Marti, wide receiver Sam LaPorta and running back Brady Feltman was too much to contain for a full 48 minutes. The Bulldogs improved to 2-0 with a 63-33 victory Friday.
The Lancers trailed 28-20 at halftime.
But the Bulldogs’ defense made a huge play on the first snap of the second half. Senior linebacker Josh Burke stripped a Lancer ball carrier and freshman defensive lineman Sam Buck pounced on it at East’s 40-yard line.
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A short time later, Marti connected with LaPorta on a 38-yard touchdown to widen the lead. The Bulldogs went on to outscore East 35-13 in the second half.
“The second half we came out and we were rocking and rolling, and I felt like we really had them on their toes,” said Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke. “We ran the ball only twice in the second quarter, so they were really spreading out for the pass. Then we were really able to take advantage of that in the running game and were really ripping off some big plays in that second half. It was a big step up for our offensive line tonight.
“Our defense held (the Lancers) at the end of the second half and then got that big turnover to start the second half and we were rolling from there.”
Marti accounted for 556 yards in total offense and seven total touchdowns. He completed 18 of 26 passes for 382 yards and five TD with no interceptions. He also led Highland’s rushing attack with 174 yards and two more scores on 10 carries, highlighted by a 66-yard touchdown run.
LaPorta had three TD receptions from 36, 18 and 38 yards out and totaled 159 yards receiving on eight catches.
Feldmann had seven receptions for 158 yards, including a 77-yard TD. He also added 66 yards running and a touchdown.
Belleville East junior quarterback Kienen Waller and senior wide receiver DeCarlos Johnson put up big numbers as well. Waller went 24 for 42 for 289 yards and three touchdowns while Johnson had 10 catches for 157 yards and one touchdown.
Running back Freddie Waller led East’s ground game with seven carries for 67 yards and one touchdown. He also caught a pass for a touchdown.
Senior receiver Quantavius Alexander also caught a 17-yard scoring pass from Waller.
“Our offense was not near good enough and our defense was in no way good enough,” said Belleville East coach Kris Stephens. “We’re going to have to make some changes and figure out how we can do things better. We had too many turnovers tonight. You never going to win a game when you lose the turnover battle. (The Bulldogs) got a lot of talent. No. 1 (LaPorta) is a talented kid, and they just kept throwing him the ball all night. We’ve got to find way to stop that sort of thing.”
Next week, Highland travels to Marion, and Belleville East faces Granite City in Southwestern Conference play.