High School Football

Week 4 football preview: Highland hopes to slow down Wills, Mascoutah in MVC showdown

On a night when they will honor the best team in school history, the Mascoutah Indians will attempt to put an end to the recent domination by the Highland Bulldogs.

Three-time defending Mississippi Valley Conference champions, Highland looks to extend its MVC winning streak to 17 when it takes on the Indians Friday at Mascoutah in the league opener for both teams.

Highland, which last lost an MVC contest on Oct. 9, 2015 when it fell at Triad (13-3) also enters the game with a seven-game winning streak against Mascoutah. The Indians last win in the MVC rivalry came in 2011.

“It’s been a long time. We’re hoping we can put an end to that (streak),’’ Indians coach Josh Lee said. “ I know they’re 1-2 but when you watch film they don’t look like a team that is down. The dynamics of their team are different for sure. Up front they are big, well coached, experienced and very physical, plus they are coached by Jim Warnecke. They are good.’’

The Indians (2-1) have been good the last two weeks, too. After dropping a 28-7 decision to Class 4A power Columbia in its season opener, Mascoutah has put up 104 points in wins over Mount Vernon and Centralia. Senior running back Devin Wills ran for 354 yards and scored five touchdowns against the Orphans.

“We didn’t play very well week 1, not to take a single thing away from Columbia,” Lee said. “We did a little soul searching after that game and if anything it was a wake-up call. Last couple weeks we have done the little things the right way and played way more free and fast and physical, just how we want to be.’’

Mascoutah also will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the I979 Mascoutah team, which won the Class 3A state championship. Mascoutah athletic director Scott Battas said the team will be recognized during the game.

Highland has come close to reaching a state title game the past two years. But after a Class 5A semifinal berth in 2017 and reaching the Class 5A quarterfinals last year — which they lost to eventual state champion Joliet Catholic — the Bulldogs are doing a little reloading this season.

With several underclassmen holding down starting spots, including quarterback Brett Wuebbels and running back Logan Chandler, the Bulldogs haven’t gotten over the hump despite playing undefeated Mount Zion and Marion to close games.

“The kids have made some mistakes the first couple of weeks, but we’re working hard to correct those mistakes,’’ Warnecke said. “Plus we’ve lost to a pair of good football teams who I believe are undefeated. We’re playing a lot of young kids and they are learning.

“Our goal is still make the playoffs.’’

Early season surprises?

Another team which figures to be in the hunt for the MVC crown, Triad, along with Red Bud out of the Cahokia Conference, have been early-season surprises and look to improve to 4-0 on Friday.

Triad, which allowed only 14 points the first two weeks before outscoring Mount Vernon 47-215 last week, opens league play at Waterloo.

Red Bud has also been solid on defense. The Musketeers defeated Cahokia Conference foe Carlyle (35-10) last week and looks to improve to 3-0 in league play when it travels to Salem.

Big early numbers

Thanks in large part to his five touchdown performance of a week ago, Wills is currently tied with O’Fallon junior Mason Blakemore for fifth in the St. Louis area in scoring with 54 points. Mater Dei senior Zach Napovanice is the top metro-east player on the list with 64 points, good for third in the St. Louis area.

Other metro east leaders include: East St. Louis junior quarterback Tyler Macon (40-of-63, 810 yards, 8 TDs); Blakemore (682 rushing yards, 687 total offense); Steve McCall of Cahokia (18 catches, 365 yards).

No relief in sight for Belleville teams

Struggling in the early going with with a combined record of 1-8, things won’t get an easier this week for Belleville East, West and Althoff.

Belleville West and East open Southwestern Conference play on Saturday. West travels to take on the top-ranked Class 5A East St. Louis Flyers at Clyde Jordan Stadium, while Belleville East will play at 2-1 O’Fallon.

Althoff will be looking for its first win of the season when it hosts Mount Vernon on Friday.

In the Associated Press state poll this week

Fresh off a narrow 50-48 win at Naperville Neuqua Valley last week, Class 5A top-ranked East St. Louis is one of four teams among the top 10 of their respective divisions in the Associated Press state poll this week.

Edwardsville (2-1) is ranked 10th in class 8A while Columbia (3-0) is No. 7 in Class 4A. Undefeated Nashville (3-0) is ranked fifth in Class 3A.