The Highland High School football team closed out the regular season with a commanding 46-14 victory over the visiting Charleston Trojans Friday night to reel off its eighth straight win and roll into the postseason with a lot of momentum.
The Bulldogs (8-1), who clinched a playoff berth two weeks ago, found on Saturday that they earned the No. 2 seed in their half of the Class 5 bracket and will host the No. 15 seeded Waterloo Bulldogs (5-4) in the first round on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Highland defeated Waterloo 14-3 on Sept. 23 on its way to pulling off a 5-0 sweep of the Mississippi Valley Conference for the third time in the past four seasons.
If HHS wins that first-round game, it would advance to face the winner of No. 7 Kankakee (6-3) and No. 10 Metamora (6-3) in the second round. The Bulldogs would host Kankakee as the better seed, but they would have to travel if Metamora were to upset Kankakee.
Charleston will miss the playoffs again after finishing 3-6.
Highland junior quarterback Garrett Marti was again the engine that powered the Bulldogs offense as he inflicted damage with both his arm and his legs.
Through the air, Marti went 11-for-18 for 189 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. With his feet, the junior led Highland’s running game with 97 yards and three more scores on 14 rushing attempts.
Also stepping up on offense for the Bulldogs — who rested sophomore running back Brady Feldman for the game — were sophomore receiver Sam LaPorta with five receptions for 97 yards and two TDs, sophomore fullback Brayton Moss with seven carries for 55 yards and one score, and junior Isaiah Harmon with eight rushes for 56 yards.
The Trojans held the opening possession of the game for six minutes, 24 seconds but ultimately turned it over on down at Highland’s 25-yard line.
Eight plays later, Highland scored on its opening possession as Marti fired a 34-yard touchdown pass to LaPorta to stake the Bulldogs to a 7-0 lead with 3:05 remaining in the opening quarter.
After the Bulldogs stopped Charleston’s offense three-and-out, Marti used his feet on the ensuing possession to take it to the house for a 3-yard score. The extra point failed but HHS led 13-0 just seven seconds into the second quarter.
Only 1:37 later, the Trojans got on the board when Seth Higgins found Dawson Armstrong who got behind the defensive secondary for a 63-yard touchdown pass to chop Highland’s lead to 13-7.
Marti answered with the next two scores with his legs from 29 and 15 yards away to give the Bulldogs a commanding 25-7 advantage at the half.
Highland was in no mood to slow down after the break as it continued the onslaught.
Moss charged in for an 11-yard rumble to make it 32-7 just 2:50 into the second half.
After Charleston’s Bryce Frederick ran in from just a yard out for a TD with 3:25 to go in the third quarter, the Trojans could not even contain the Bulldogs for the remainder of the quarter. Marti again hooked up with LaPorta, this time for a 31-yard touchdown toss with 41 ticks left to give Highland a domineering 39-14 margin heading into the final quarter of the regular season.
To cap off the scoring, Marti found junior receiver Cameron Altadonna for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 8:01 to play for the only score of the final quarter.