After missing the past two games, Highland junior quarterback Garrett Marti looked as if he never missed a beat while the Bulldogs’ defense had plenty of bite en route to blanking the visiting Triad Knights in a 24-0 commanding win.
Adding extra incentive for Marti was that he missed the rivalry game at Triad last year and Highland suffered a 13-3 loss that ended the Bulldogs’ two-year reign as Mississippi Valley Conference champions and secured the league title for the Knights.
A big stake in this year’s MVC crown was on the line again.
“I couldn’t wait to come back after I missed it last year because it’s a rivalry game and a big game,” said Marti who completed 12-of-24 passes for 165 yards with one touchdown and rushed nine times for 77 yards and a score.
Marti scored on a 15-yard touchdown gallop to make it 17-0 with 6:50 to go in the third quarter and then finished off the scoring with a 33-yard TD toss to sophomore Brayton Moss late in the third quarter.
The win was the sixth in a row for the Bulldogs (6-1), who clinched at least a share of the Mississippi Valley Conference with a perfect 4-0 mark while also eliminating defending champion Triad (5-2, 2-2).
Highland only has to win at Jerseyville (2-5, 1-3) next week to sweep the MVC and win it outright.
In addition to Marti’s performance, sophomore Brady Feldman did a great job taking over as the lead running back in place of injured senior Trent Rakers. Feldman toted the ball 21 times for 118 yards and scored the first touchdown on a 4-yard plunge that cashed in on a Triad fumble on its opening possession. Junior Colton Knebel recovered the fumble at the Knights’ 49-yard line.
Also on offense for the Bulldogs, sophomore Sam LaPorta had five receptions for 77 yards and junior kicker Elliott Prott booted a 42-yard field goal to give Highland a 10-0 lead late in the first half.
On defense, junior linebacker Kyle Lane led the Bulldogs with 18 tackles (10 solos).
Also stepping up on defense were Moss with 11 tackles (nine solos), sophomore Jack Etter with nine tackles (seven solos), junior Noah Schmitt with nine tackles (six solos) and LaPorta had a fumble recovery.