By Anthony Jones
In a year with so much in the sports world changed, the intensity between Triad and Highland on the football field was not one of them. Both teams collected their share of penalties and big hits. But in a change from a recent pattern, Triad claimed victory in the game for the first time since 2015.
Triad received to start the game and a short kick from the Bulldogs set the Knights up at their own 40 yard line. Not to repeat their slow start from last week, the team started driving down the field quickly. The team had moved down to the Highland’s six yard line, when they were faced with a fourth and one.
The Knights elected to go for the first down and a quarterback sneak by Drew Straub picked up the necessary yardage. Just one play later, Straub rushed in for a four yard touchdown. A Jake Ellis point after try put the Knights up 7-0 with less than 7 minutes left in the first quarter.
Both teams traded kicks afterwards, until Triad had the ball at midfield early in the second quarter. Triad picked up a first down, but were quickly set back as a sack set them up with a second and seventeen. But on the next play, Sam Yager took a pitch 44 yards for a touchdown by blowing by a series of defenders.
Feeling the pressure down 14-0, the Bulldogs offense started to drive. The team looked prime to score with a first down at Triad’s 16 yard line. But after drawing penalty yardage and not gaining much yardage, they were faced with a fourth and nineteen. After electing to go for it, the team heaved a pass into the end zone, but it failed to find it’s receiver.
After forcing another Triad punt, Highland was threatening again as they moved the ball to mid-field. But another huge penalty killed their drive and forced them to punt again. Triad ran out the quarter on their next possession and took their 14-0 lead into halftime.
After receiving the kickoff in the third quarter, the Bulldogs offense came alive. Senior Logan Chandler got things rolling with a huge run out to the Highland 46 yard line on the second play of the drive. On the very next play, Highland quarterback Brent Wuebbels dropped back and threw a deep ball to Cade Altadonna to move to the Triad one yard line.
Chandler would punch the ball in from one yard out to score Highland’s first play of the game. On the point after attempt, the hold was botched and then blocked by Triad to keep the score at 14-6.
The Knights wasted no time responding as Straub returned the ensuing kickoff out to near midfield. Triad would methodically drive down to the Bulldog’s 30 yard line, where they were faced with a fourth and one. The quarterback sneak worked again in this spot, keeping the drive alive.
Straub made another big play shortly later, with a 14 yard scamper that fell one yard shy of the end zone. Yager would blast through the Highland line on the next play to put Triad up 20-6. Another Ellis kick extended that lead to 21-6 with four minutes left in the third quarter.
Highland slowly marched down the field on their next drive. As the third quarter came to a close, they were faced with a third and fifteen from the Triad twenty three yard line.
They were then faced with a fourth and six where they would drop back to pass. Although the pass fell incomplete, a pass interference flag was thrown after the play and extending the drive.
Shortly after, Highland was set up at the one yard line.
Wuebbels then rolled out and dove towards the end zone when the ball was knocked out of his hands. Luckily for the Bulldogs, offensive lineman Alim Deva recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. The Bulldogs elected to go for two points for the point after try and they successfully converted it off of a Chandler run.
On their next drive, Triad’s offense moved into the red zone. However, they were stopped and forced into a fourth and six. The Knights elected to attempt a field goal, but the kick fell short and gave Triad the ball back.
WIth four minutes left in the game, Highland took the ball back at their own nineteen. Triad’s defense stepped up big in the spot however and forced a turnover on downs after giving up only two yards.
After a holding penalty and a few short runs, the Knights were faced with a fourth and 19 from the Highland 29 yard line. Deciding to try to finish the game, the Knights sent their offense back on the field. On this critical play, Straub dropped back and delivered a pass to Geno Riggar. Riggar then side stepped a defender and picked up the necessary yardage for a first down.
Shortly after, Straub punched in his second score of the night, this time from seven yards out. Another extra point from Ellis gave Triad a 28-14 lead with only 2:13 left to be played.
Highland quickly moved down field on the following drive, going down to Triad’s 16 yard line. The drive would be thwarted by the Knight’s defense however who produced a turnover on downs. Straub was then able to kneel the remainder of the clock out.
Triad’s Heach Coach Paul Bassler said of defeating Highland after the recent stretch of losses to them, “We’ve been in incredible games with them back and forth. There was a stretch there where they were a really great team. It’s been a great rivalry game. They have been blessed with really great athletes the past few years, so it’s been an uphill battle for us. One of our games when we had a really great team, some of them were undisciplined and we had 17 guys suspended. So it’s nice to come in full strength and compete with them full strength. And it’s always nice to win over.”
Next week Triad will host the undefeated Mascoutah Indians in the final week of pool play. As dedicated by the pool format, the Inidans have also played both Highland and Collinsville.
Players to watch for Mascoutah are Chase Hanson(quarterback) and Aiden Jones (receiver/safety). Hanson made his debut at quarterback in week 1 against Highland, where he scored five first half touchdowns with two rushing and three passing. Jones had a dominant game that week as well, with six catches, two were touchdowns, and 132 receiving yards. He also dominated on defense with seven tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble.
Bassler said of that upcoming matchup and upcoming bracketed play, “That’ll be great for our pool play. I told the boys we may do this again because once pool play is over next weekend, then you match up with the other side of the pool, but our side is pretty strong. And we could end up playing Highland or Mascoutah again. It’s a long way from over.”