By Mark Jurgena
The Highland football team bounced back from a slow start to take an early 2nd half lead but couldn’t keep it as they fell in their season opener to Class 6A powerhouse Washington 30-20 on August 27th.
“I think we did some good things, definitely some positives to build off of,” said Highland coach Jim Warnecke. “You play a team like Washington in week one and you’ve really got to limit the week one mistakes that usually happen. If you don’t you’re going to have a tough time beating them. That was our demise.”
HHS started the game slowly with a three-and-out and a turnover on downs in their first two possessions. However, the next three possessions saw three Bulldog TDs.
Quarterback Brett Wuebbles scored on a 13-yard run to cut into the ten point Panther lead. Joey Geromiller made the extra point to make it a 10-7 game with 7:19 to play in the opening half.
Washington regained some momentum with a late TD before halftime, but the Dogs answered back with a one-yard Travis Porter TD with :27 seconds to play and cut the Panther lead to 16-13.
After the half, the Highland defense stuffed Washington deep in their own territory forcing a punt.
Disaster struck for WHS as the long snap sailed over the punter’s head. The Dogs took over at the W16.
On the first play from scrimmage, Wuebbles hit Cade Altadonna on a 16-yard TD pass with 9:36 to play in the 3rd quarter.
“All the momentum was surely on our side at that point. You could feel it,” said Warnecke. “We’ve got to be better at keeping our foot on the throat, so to speak. Just come out with that big hit on special teams or get a strip sack, something like that on the defensive end to keep the frenzy going.”
However Highland could not keep the momentum going. Just four minutes later they gave up a safety when they were called for holding in the end zone.
Washington got good field position on the ensuing free kick from the Highland 20 and scored on a one-yard TD plunge with 3:08 to play in the third.
The Panthers would grind out another three-yard TD run in the 4th quarter to provide the final margin.
“I thought it was a great lesson for our boys,” Warnecke said. “This is the type of team we’ll face 2nd, 3rd round of the playoffs.
“It lets you know right off the bat, week one, what type of game you have to play with the discipline and with the focus you have to bring for four quarters to beat a good team like Washington.”
For the game Wuebbles carried 10 times for 82 yards to lead the Dogs. He also passed for 169 yards on 16-31 passing with a TD.
Porter carried the ball six times for 47 yards and James Beard tacked on 13 yards with his two carries.
Porter and Altadonna each had five receptions in the game. Altadonna racked up 55 yards while Porter amassed 53. James Beard caught two balls for 36 yards.
Cameron Willis caught one for 13 yards, Adam Korte had one for eight yards, and Gabe Marti had one for five yards.
Brenden Gelly led the defensive effort with 11 tackles and six assists.
The Dogs return to the gridiron tomorrow night at Edwardsville. The opening kickoff is at 7 p.m.