Highland’s football game at Effingham Friday night was guaranteed to be a long one after a lightning storm delayed the starting time nearly two hours before a second lightning delay in the second half had the game end after midnight.
But the Bulldogs also did all they could on the gridiron during the game to make sure it felt like an even longer game for the host Flaming Hearts.
Highland rolled up nearly 500 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground en route to bulldozing Effingham 47-14 to win its second in a row to improve to 2-1.
The game started out ominous as HHS junior quarterback Garrett Marti threw an interception on the game’s third play from scrimmage and the Flaming Hearts (1-2) parlayed into the game’s first touchdown on a 3-yard run by Terrence Hill.
But it was all Highland after that as the Bulldogs marched into the end zone on their final six possessions of the first half to take a commanding 33-14 halftime lead.
By halftime, Marti, a dual offensive threat who inflicts damage with both his legs on the ground and his arm through the air, had already gashed the Flaming Hearts defense for 200 yards rushing and touchdown runs of 33 and 79 yards, respectively. He also threw a 68-yard TD to sophomore running back Brady Feldman with 1:20 left in the first half.
But Marti, who finished with 350 yards in total offense after going 7-for-14 for 140 yards with a TD, got plenty of help from the two-pronged running-back threat of senior Trent Rakers and Feldman.
Rakers and Feldman each amassed more than 130 yards rushing.
Rakers toted the ball 17 times for 152 yards and scored three times from distances of 16, 3 and 10 yards.
In addition to dashing down the sideline for a 68-yard TD on a screen pass late in the first half, Feldman also piled up more than 130 yards rushing, which was highlighted by an 83-yard dash to the end zone to cap off the game’s scoring with 3:40 to play.
For the second straight week, Highland’s defense pitched a shutout of the opposing offense in the second half. Sophomore Jack Etter intercepted his second pass in as many weeks.
After Alec Morrisey picked Marti off on the third play and Hill cashed it in from three yards away, Marti had the quick response on Highland’s ensuing possession. Marti carried it twice for 55 yards, punctuated by a 33-yard dart to pay dirt.
That began a streak of six straight drives culminating in touchdowns.
After a Flaming Heart punt, Rakers scored on a 16-yard run to finish off a seven-play 57-yard drive, and then scored early in the second quarter from three yards out to make it 19-7.
Effingham’s next drive stalled out at the Bulldog 21-yard line. Only two plays later, Marti galloped 79 yards for the score to extend the his team’s lead to 26-7.
After Effingham scored on Lucas Vasquez’s run from four yards away to cap off a 13-play drive with 1:40 remaining in the opening half, Marti again countered quickly, hitting Feldman for the 68-yard TD on the screen pass to blow it wide open at 33-14 at the half.
The second half was not as fast-paced, with a scoreless third quarter as well as the second lightning delay at 10:40 p.m.
But the Bulldogs’ charged back up the offense in the fourth quarter.
First, Rakers scored on a 10-yard run with 6:46 left. It was followed by a botched point-after attempt that turned instead into a 2-point conversion.
Feldman put the exclamation point on the game as he sprinted 83-yards for the capper with 3:40 to go.
Highland (2-1) hosts Mascoutah (1-2) on Friday night in both teams’ Mississippi Valley Conference opener. The Indians were nipped by Salem 30-29 last Friday night.
Watch Friday’s Game Live Online
Can’t make it to Friday’s home game between Highland and Mascoutah? Watch it from your home this Friday because it will be broadcast live. The Highland Video Team will be live streaming each home football game this season. To watch the game online, go to www.NFHSNetwork and search Highland High. For more information, contact Chris Durbin at Highland High School.