If there was any question as to how Highland got the No. 2 seed in the South Region of the IHSA Class 5 playoffs, the Bulldogs answered them Saturday.
Senior running back Brady Feldmann scored six touchdowns and the Bulldogs defense forced four turnovers as Highland hammered the Rich Central Olympians, 61-21, in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Highland (10-0) will host Mattoon in a second round regional game at 4 p.m. next Saturday.
“I feel like our biggest thing going into the game was running the ball and stopping the run,” Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke said. ”It’s playoff football, you play in bad weather and things happen. We were able to pound the rock all night long with Brady and he’s a guy you can give the rock to.”’
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Feldmann finished the game with 228 yards on 23 carries, an average of 9.9 yards per attempt. Quarterback Jack Etter completed 12 of 18 pass attempts for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Wide receiver Sam LaPorta hauled in nine receptions for 158 yards.
The Bulldogs offense got rolling early, scoring three touchdowns in their first three drives to push out to a 21-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Etter hit LaPorta on 4-yard pass for a score, then Feldmann scored on touchdowns on runs of three and two yards get the Bulldogs offense out the gate fast.
“They were quick and we knew that, so we just had to show them what Highland football was about and we came out there rocking,” Feldmann said.
Feldmann scored two more touchdowns on runs of runs of eight and three yards in the second quarter to push the Bulldogs’ lead to 34-7 at the half. Rich Central’s lone first-half score came on a Jason Johnson 3-yard run with 4:03 left in the first quarter.
In the second half, the Bulldogs continued to feed Feldmann the rock.
He added a pair of scores in the third quarter, including an eye-popping 28-yard dash for his sixth and final score, putting Highland Highland up 61-21 with 3:20 left in the third quarter.
“That’s just the o-line and the downhill blocking from the wide receivers and me just following the blocks,” Feldmann said.
The Bulldogs’ defense was equally effective with three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
LaPorta killed two Rich Central scoring drives with timely interceptions.
“I guess I was trying to read (the quarterback’s eye) but it starts up front the with pressure from the d-line and the linebacker communicating to us and the (defensive backs) communicating to everybody,” LaPorta said. ““When the interception is a drive killer, it just gets them down and out.”
Highland moves on to a second-round game against Mattoon, which edged Mascoutah 28-24 Saturday. Rich Central’s season ends at 5-5.
“We bring it every week and we know we’ve to bring it every week,” LaPorta said. “It’s win or go home from now on and I don’t think anybody’s planning on going home.”