These are some of the top high school football players in the metro-east
Offensive playmakers Sam LaPorta, Brady Feldmann, and Jack Etter have moved on to the next level from Highland’s 2018 team that finished 11-1 and reached the Class 3A quarterfinals.
But don’t expect the Highland Bulldogs to lay down or fall back to the pack in 2019.
Ninth-year head coach Jimmy Warnecke’s 2019 Bulldogs will turn to an experienced group of lineman to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and help develop a talented group of younger offensive skill players.
The torch has been passed on to the likes of senior linemen Payton Cave, Trevor Zobrist, Wes Schmollinger, and junior Sam Buck.
“It’s nice to have someone show you how to do things the right way,” Warnecke said. “If you don’t have that in front of you it’s tough for the torch to be passed, so they are very fortunate to have a group of guys ahead of them that did things the right way and showed them the right way.”
Cave, Zobrist, Schmollinger, and Buck comprise the core of the offensive line. Cave, Zobrist and Schmollinger are three-year starters and the Bulldogs will lean on their experience early to help the offense finds its footing, as freshman quarterback Brent Wuebbels looks to get settled in behind center.
Wuebbels has earned the respect of the upperclassmen in the first few weeks of practice.
“You know, there’s always going to be some growing pains with younger players, but I think he has stepped right in without missing a beat and he’s making plays that seniors would make,” Zobrist said.
In the backfield, Feldmann’s explosive running will be primarily replaced by 6-1, 205-pound junior running back Logan Chandler.
“He’s a big, strong kid and a guy we put a lot of trust in,” Warnecke said. “He’s a physical, downhill runner behind a physical line, so that’s kind of a good match there (for us).”
Senior Caleb Blount and junior Jeffrey Blunt are also expected to see time at running back.
Senior Connor Sands, who backed up Etter at quarterback last year, will look to use his speed and playmaking skills at the wide receiver slot to bolster the Bulldog passing game.
“Taking the ball out of Connor’s hands was a tough decision, but there are so many things we can do with him stretching the field vertically and that’s going to make our team better offensively,” Warnecke said.
“Having him as a deep threat and the things that he can do will make our offense better.”
On defense, the Bulldogs will look to lean on their lineman to help develop the unit early as the young linebackers and secondary find their way.
“I think our defensive line, that is going to be our identity on defense in that we’re disrupting their linemen, we’re coming after their quarterback and we’re messing with their running backs,” Zobrist said.
Zobrist believes this group is ready to carry on the tradition of success just as the previous clubs have and they will make no excuses in pursuing perfection this fall.
“Our program is always 14-0 and gets a state championship and strives for perfection and if we make mistakes along the way, we’re always doing the next best thing to achieve perfection wherever we can,” Zobrist said.
Highland opens the season at 7 p.m. Friday at home against Mount Zion.