The Highland Bulldogs were 9-2 overall and 5-0 in the Mississippi Valley Conference last season and advanced to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. One of their losses came via forfeit because of a teachers’ strike.
Returning players include senior running back Andrew Winning, sophomore linebacker Kyle Lane, senior linemen Austin Bush and Brayden Menke, senior tailback and safety Trent Rakers, senior safety and receiver Jimmie Smith and senior kicker and linebacker Zeke Kaufman.
Winning has rushed for 2,068 yards and 24 touchdowns in two seasons on varsity.
Garret Marti isn’t a typical sophomore quarterback. He gained experience last season when the score was lopsided. Marti rushed for 257 yards and five TDs, although four of his 19 passes were intercepted.
Head Coach Jimmy Warnecke said Smith could be a threat at receiver, particularly in the open field where he can showcase his athleticism. Senior Sam Tiepe, who possesses 4.5 speed, is another receiver.
Bush, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound tackle, and Menke, a 5-10, 255-pound guard, will anchor the right side of the line. Seniors Sam Ahlmeyer (center) and Chris Beard (left guard) and junior Wade Clarkin (left tackle) complete the offensive line. Senior Austin Nix and sophomore Josh Burke are tight ends and fullbacks.
Bush, Menke and Beard will rotate at noseguard. Senior Justin Haase and Burke will play end.
Kaufman and Lane are back at inside linebacker.
In the secondary, Smith and Rakers are safeties. The corners will be senior twins Colton and Paxton VonderHaar.
Kaufman will be the Bulldogs’ kicker and punter. Warnecke said Kaufman could be the area’s second-best kicker behind O’Fallon senior Tucker McCann, a Missouri recruit who blasted a state-record 60-yard field goal last season.
— David Wilhelm
at Civic Memorial
at Du Quoin