Triad arrived at Highland High School Friday night hoping to spoil the Bulldogs’ perfect record and their homecoming celebration.
Stuffing a fake punt attempt early in the second quarter with the score tied at 7-7, the Knights built a little momentum toward their goal.
But Highland senior running back Brady Feldmann rushed for three touchdowns and quarterback Jack Etter scored twice himself to turn a tight game into a 44-14 win for the Bulldogs.
“It started off a mess because we wanted the wind to start the game and that didn’t happen for some reason but we had to turn the page and we did,” Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke said. “The wind took a lot of our vertical [passing] game away but I thought we really got going when we got the run game going.”
Feldman put the Bulldogs on top with a 1-yard run at 8:34 of the first quarter. Triad answered on a three-yard Amaziah Lusk run with 9:55 left in the second quarter as the Knights defense and the wind challenged Highland’s passing game early.
“I can’t blame the passing [struggles] on the wind,” Etter said. “I just have to be better than that and trust my running backs to make so moves.”
Etter was much better after that as he led Highland (5-0 overall, 2-0 in the Mississippi Valley Conference) on a pair of scoring drives. His first touchdown, a 10-yard run made it 14-7. Then he capped off the Bulldogs next drive with a 13-yard TD dash to make it 21-7 with 4:05 left in the half.
Feldmann added a 1-yard run with 3:17 left and then the Bulldogs defense forced a safety and Feldmann ended off his big first half with an electrifying 68-yard kick return for a touchdown for a 29-7 halftime lead. It was a big night for Feldmann, who rushed for 126 yards on 15 carries to go with his four scores.
“They were kind of taking away the passing game but it opened up the run game a lot and we took advantage of it,” Feldmann said. “It feels awesome to have a game like this [on homecoming].”
The second quarter collapse put Triad (1-4, 1-1) in the unenjoyable position of playing catch up with their run-based, triple-option offense.
“It was all on me and I apologized to our players about that,” Triad coach Paul Basler said. “We tried to get way too fancy when we didn’t need to. We’re young and we’re down but we’re not out.”
Triad scored its final touchdown of the night in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard Devin Towns run.
Senior wideout Sam LaPorta overcame a slow start to finish with 84 yards receiving on seven catches.
Etter hit 9 of 17 passing for 131 yards.
Etter credited the offensive line and offense with staying patient and working the game plan to help the team move to 5-0.
“We’ve got just too many weapons to stop,” Etter said. “There are too many things to stop in our offense.”