High School Football

5A Playoff preview: Highland takes on a traditional powerhouse

Highland quarterback Garrett Marti gains yardage in a game against Civic Memorial.
Highland quarterback Garrett Marti gains yardage in a game against Civic Memorial.

NO. 2 HIGHLAND AT NO. 10 METAMORA

Kickoff: 2 p.m. Saturday at Metamora High School

Next Week: Winner advances to Illinois Class 5A quarterfinal against either No. 3 Morris (8-2) or No. 11 Triad (7-3)

HIGHLAND (9-1)

Coach: Jimmy Warnecke (6th year, 42-20)

Rank: No. 2 in Illinois Class 5A

Last Week: Highland defeated Waterloo, 10-6

Playoff History: The Bulldogs are in the post season in Class 5A for the fifth year in a row and have been playoff qualifiers 19 times since their first appearance in 1988. Highland was undefeated through this point of the season in 2013, but loss in the quarterfinals that year. Its only previous quarterfinal appearance occurred in 2003.

Scouting Report: The Bulldogs have been perfect since their surprise 25-24 loss to Cahokia in the first week of the season, but dodged bullets with narrow wins over conference rivals Civic Memorial and Jerseyville. Highland did it again in the first round of the playoffs last week, driving 65 yards in just 43 seconds to nip Waterloo, 10-6. Senior quarterback Garrett Marti sets the tempo for the Bulldogs, leading the offense with both his efficient arm (116-of-186, 1,705 yards, 13 TDs, two interceptions) and legs (107 carries, 700 yards, 10 TDs). Highland lost its top running backs Trent Rakers (94 carries, 653 yards, 9 TD’s) when he broke his leg in week 6, but sophomore Brady Feldman (108 carries, 552 yards, seven TDs) has been a capable replacement. Sam LaPorta (46 catches, 810 yards, six TDs) is among the region’s top wide receivers. Junior linebacker Kyle Lane (107 tackles, fumble recovery) leads the defense. 

METAMORA (7-4)

Coach: Pat Ryan (27th year, 251-63)

Rank: Votes in Illinois Class 5A

Last Week: Metemora defeated Kankakee, 14-6

Playoff History: The Redbirds have been a powerhouse in both 4A and 5A under Ryan. They were 4A state champions in 2009 and 5A champs in 2007. Metamora was the state runner-up in 1996, ’97, ’99, and ’00. From 1994 to 2010, it finished as no worse than a quarterfinalist 15 times.

Scouting Report: A pair of overtime losses took some wind out of the Redbirds’ sails, particularly a 21-20 overtime loss to Pekin that sparked a three-game skid. But Metamora rebounded by demolishing East Peoria, 49-6, in the final week of the season, then toughing out a 14-6 win over Kankakee in last week’s playoff opener. Metamora has a senior tackle in Austin Wallace that is committed to play college football at South Dakota. The Redbirds use two quarterbacks; senior Jon Brunton (69 carries, 421 yards) is conventionally thought of as the “running” quarterback and sophomore Tommy Hall (31-of-66, 393 yards) is the “passer,” though statistically they appear to be equals in both categories. Pat Ryan — a graduate of Metamora and former Redbirds quarterback — likes to spread the field, but his team remains run dominant. Senior running back Ethan Hodel (153 carries, 1,318 yards) will get the bulk of the carries. Metamora averages 28.4 points per game while allowing 20.5.

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