Highland’s last football trip to Marion saw the Bulldogs prevail 45-27 in 2017.
The Bulldogs narrowly missed another win there Friday, as Marion’s Lucas Will and Frankie Horner conspired against HHS in the final minute.
Will connected with Horner on a 9-yard touchdown pass and the pair combined on the ensuing two-point conversion play with 41 seconds left, sending HHS to a heartbreaking 30-29 loss.
“We beat Marion the last two years and they are a damn good football program and (Friday night) we just didn’t make enough plays and that was kind of my message to the boys,” Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke said. “I felt we improved on some things such as our penalties and missed assignments, so there was progress. But we’ve just got to find a way to make big plays and we left some there and defensively we just have got to be more consistent.”
Highland’s running game has been one area of consistency, powered by the physical HHS offensive line and bruising junior running back Logan Chandler.
Chandler, behind Highland’s hulking line, had another big-time night against Marion, as he rushed for 161 yards on 28 carries and scored three touchdowns.
“He’s (Chandler) looked really good these last few weeks and those boys blocking up front for him are doing a helluva job. I thought our boys up front were even better this week,” Warnecke said. “(Quarterback) Brent (Wuebbles) did a good job running the ball again as he had close to 100 yards, so that’s a nice compliment to him.”
Wuebbles also hooked up with Connor Sands for a 24-yard touchdown pass, giving the Bulldogs a 14-6 lead with 6:18 left in the first half.
Chandler’s 9-yard touchdown run pushed the lead to 21-6 with 1:52 left in the first half.
Marion regained the lead at 22-21 with 9:12 left in the fourth quarter when Jonathan Tucker broke off a 66-yard touchdown run. HHS answered on the next series, as Chandler posted his third TD on a 2-yard plunge and then ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 29-22 with 6:15 left.
The Wildcats, however, had the final answer from Will and Horner.
Although Highland heads into Friday’s Mississippi Valley Conference opener at Mascoutah at 1-2, Warnecke believes the three hard-fought nonconference games have prepared the Bulldogs for league action.
“We’re 1-2 and we’re gonna deal with that and we’ll have to respond, but I have a feeling that these three nonconference games are really going to help prepare us for the conference schedule we see coming up,” Warnecke said.
Kick off against Mascoutah is set for 7 p.m.