Senior quarterback Garrett Marti and the Highland Bulldogs took a huge step toward a possible undefeated regular season Friday.
Marti threw three touchdown passes, including two to junior wide receiver Sam LaPorta, sparking the Bulldogs to a 28-13 victory over the Knights.
Highland, which led its longtime rival 21-0 at halftime and 28-0 midway through the third quarter, improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the Mississippi Valley Conference.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without all my linemen and all the wide receivers that come down with the ball. I can’t thank them enough,” said Marti, who has 17 touchdown passes and just one interception this season. “They’re something special. I love them.”
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Marti was 12 of 24 for 190 yards and rushed 15 times for 77 yards. Junior Brady Feldmann, who also had a touchdown catch from Marti, added 13 carries for 82 yards. His 2-yard touchdown run just before halftime made it 21-0.
LaPorta, meanwhile, registered seven catches for 95 yards. His touchdown grabs of 14 and 23 yards came in the opening 8:23 and put Highland in control.
“It’s always good to start off a game on those first two drives and be up 14-0,” Marti said, adding that the touchdown strikes to LaPorta were “similar to each other.”
“But (Triad) started adjusting to some things after we hit him a few times,” Marti said. “They went over the top on him. That just opens up more people, though.”
Triad (4-1, 1-1), sparked by the hard running of freshman Sam Yager, played a spirited second half and got within 28-13 on touchdown runs of 4 and 3 yards by Yager.
“He showed guts,” Triad coach Paul Bassler said. “I felt comfortable bringing him in.”
Yager was pressed into service for the first time this season after senior Elijah Kelly suffered a serious knee/leg injury that delayed the game for about 20 minutes in the second quarter.
“I’m hoping it’s a dislocation. It was pretty deformed,” Bassler said. “It was right at the knee, so I couldn’t tell. It’s unfortunate. That’s the third starter we’ve had go down.”
Triad’s best running back, senior Trevor Nott, is sidelined by a dislocated left elbow.
“I hope the kid’s all right,” Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke said of Kelly. “But I’m feeling the worst. I think it was a bad one. They lost their tailback last week and their fullback this week. You never want to see that to any kid, especially the seniors.”
Warnecke credited the Knights’ defense for making things tough on Highland in the second half. The Bulldogs are a passing team that couldn’t find rhythm or control the clock after building the big lead.
“They made some adjustments as far as covering Sam up a little bit,” Warnecke said. “We tried to go to other areas, and we weren’t very successful with it. We’ve got to understand when we’re up by that much, we can’t keep throwing incomplete passes and stop the clock. That’s something we’ve got to be better at.”
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm