Bulldogs football coach Jim Warnecke won’t soon forget the first time Garrett Marti lined up at quarterback in the postseason.
But it’s not the three interceptions Marti threw in Highland High School’s 36-15 loss to Taylorville in the second round of the 5A playoffs that stood out. It’s the way the freshman backup held himself in the aftermath.
“Even then as a freshman, he took so much on his shoulders,” Warnecke said. “Being the type of kid that he is, Garrett felt like he had let us down. He felt like he had let the seniors down in their last year. That’s the type of young man he is.
“We knew right then that we had someone pretty special in Garrett Marti.”
Three years later, the interceptions are in the distant past. Those initial hints at leadership are front and center.
Now a 6-foot, 180-pound senior, Marti already had 25 touchdown passes and more than 2,900 passing yards entering the 2017 season. He has been nearly flawless in the Bulldogs’ first two games of 2017.
In a 63-33 win over Belleville East on Friday, Marti completed 19 of 28 passes for 382 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for another 174 yards. That’s 556 yards of total offense.
Garrett is processing what he’s seeing and making good decisions. For everything a defense does, we have an answer, too, because he’s calling the shots out there.
Jimmy Warnecke, Highland football coach
“I think a lot of the success so far this season has to do with maturity,” Marti said. “Last year, I didn’t do the best job of preparing from week to week. This year, I’m spending a lot more time watching film and preparing for every opponent. You really can’t look past anybody ...
“The offensive line does a great job of blocking, and my receivers go up and get the ball, and then they all have the ability to make plays after they catch the football. It’s a team effort.”
Marti is a three-year starter at quarterback and has led the Bulldogs to a record of 19-4 in 23 career starts. In that time, Marti has 33 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. Marti had one touchdown pass and four interceptions as a freshman.
In two games this year, Marti has thrown for more than 650 yards and has nine touchdown passes and no interceptions. It’s the best start of his career.
“This group of seniors, we’ve grown up together,” Marti said. “We all got our start together as little kids playing football in the park. We all know each other so well, and the group of juniors we have has just joined right in as well. We’re all pretty close, and I think that helps.
“We spent a lot of time together working out as a team once a week. Then we went to football camp and played in seven-on-seven events.”
Marti has shown steady progress in his three years under Warnecke, a Highland native who also played quarterback for the Bulldogs. Warnecke has given Marti several weapons to use in the Bulldogs’ high-powered offense.
Against Belleville East, senior Brady Feldman and highly-touted junior Sam LaPorta combined for 17 catches and more than 300 yards.
I wouldn’t trade anybody on this team.
Garrett Marti, Highland senior quarterback
“I think what has really helped him is being a senior, the game has slowed down for him, and he’s processing things so much better,” Wanrecke said. “We’re bringing him up to the line, and every play he’s making pre-snap decisions.
“A lot of young quarterbacks, they look around the field, but they don’t see what they need to see. This year, Garrett is processing what he’s seeing and making good decisions. For everything a defense does, we have an answer, too, because he’s calling the shots out there.”
Marti said his senior season at Highland could be his final one as a football player. Although drawing interest from several schools, Marti — at least for now — has no interest in playing college athletics. Marti also led the Highland baseball team with four home runs and 27 RBIs as a junior.
“I’m thinking that right now I’m leaning towards not playing any sport in college,” Marti said. “I guess maybe I’m a little burned out by football. But right now, I’m thinking about going to (Southwestern Illinois College), becoming a machinist and getting a job. But we’ll see what happens.”