Brady Feldmann made it happen on the ground and through the air for Highland and the Bulldogs defense came up big with three turnovers in a 56-35 win over Mattoon in the IHSA Class 5A second-round playoff win on Saturday.
The victory moves No. 2-seeded Highland into the Class 5A quarterfinals against No. 14 Joliet Catholic next weekend.
Feldmann, the Bulldogs’ senior do-it-all running back rushed for three of his four touchdowns in the first half and finished the day with 110 yards rushing on 15 carries to go with three catches for 127 yards.
The win lifts the Bulldogs to 11-0 on the season.
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“Once again, it’s just a lot of the downfield blocking and I’m just the face of the offense,” Feldmann said. “I think establishing the run game and then setting up the pass off of that was it (the key).”
Highland struck on its first drive as quarterback Jack Etter hit Feldmann for a 68-yard catch and run for a touchdown to make it 7-0. Mattoon (7-4) answered on a 25-yard pass from Jack Pilson to Brock Smith to tie it at 7-7 with4:17 left to go int he first quarter.
The Bulldogs came right back on the next drive, scoring in eight plays as Feldmann punched it in on a 1-yard run for a 14-7 lead with 36 seconds left in he first quarter.
Feldmann scored on a 5-yard run to make it 21-7 with 9:21 left in the second quarter but the Green Wave responded again with another touchdown drive as Pilson scored on 29-yard run to cut the lead to 21-13 with 5:43 left in the second quarter.
“We have a lot of weapons, but shout out to them, they battled us hard and they hit me a few times and they knocked me down a few times,” Feldmann said.
Highland responded with another scoring drive, as Etter scored on a 1-yard run to make it 28-13 with 1:28 left in the first half.
In the third quarter, Highland’s offense erupted as the Bulldogs scored three TDs in just over 6 minutes to take control.
Etter hit Sam LaPorta with a 50-yard pass on the right sidelines and LaPorta took it to the endzone in just 12 seconds on the first play of the third quarter. LaPorta had four catches for 126 yards receiving.
“We knew we had to come out and play well in the third quarter and hope we get a stop and they come out in the third quarter and the first play is a touchdown,” Matton coach Troy Johnson said. “I never promise wins or losses but I promise my kids will play hard and they always have, win, lose, or draw.”
On the next drive, Etter hit Feldmann for a 50-yard catch and run for a touchdown and then Bailey Trame scored on a 4-yard run, pushing the lead to 42-13 and the Bulldogs are once again rolling.
Etter hit 12 of 23 passing for 327 yards with the touchdowns and an interception.
“We wanted to be fast out of the gate and that one of our keys to victory,” Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke said. “I think the story of today is we didn’t bring our best football but we still found a way to win.”
The Highland defense also was steady from wire to wire as the Bulldogs got drive-stopping interceptions from Dylan Aptken, Jacob Kruse, and LaPorta.
LaPorta and senior linebacker Brayton Moss led the Bulldogs stop crew with eight tackles each.