Blake Gelly and the Highland Bulldogs went to Mascoutah looking to start the Mississippi Valley Conference part of their 2023 schedule off on the right note.
After a tight first quarter, Gelly and the Bulldogs found his rhythm and the Bulldogs got rolling. The Bulldogs sophomore quarterback broke loose for four touchdown passes and added a rushing TD, driving Highland to a 42-7 MVC victory on Friday night at Mascoutah High School’s Alumni Field.
Highland (3-1, 1-0),which was shutout by Mahomet-Seymour 28-0 two weeks ago, has now won back-to-back games and scored 84 points in its last two games.
Gelly and the Bulldogs offense have settled down the past two weeks and have begun to become a solid, protective group. “Just constantly getting (practice) reps and watching film over and over again and honestly just keep getting better and being able to see things better and we’ve made a couple of adjustments with our front line so I could pass a little bit (better),” Gelly said.
HHS jumped on top first thanks to a 33-yard Gelly to Blake Reinacher bomb for a touchdown at 8:23 of the first quarter.
Mascoutah (1-3, 0-1) drew even at the end of the first quarter on 1-yard touchdown plunge by Devon Parks.
The defenses settled in during the second quarter for both teams but late in the second quarter, Highland got the ball at the 24 and drove down to the Indians 16-yard line.
On a first down from the 16, Gelly dropped back to pass, got flushed from the pocket and after finding no open receivers, took off and zig-zagged his way int the end zone for 16-yard touchdown run, making it 13-7. The PAT kick was blocked leaving the score 13-7 at the half.
“The middle of the field opened up and It was just go for it,” Gelly said. “It is a lot of fun (to run there) and it just kind of takes the pressure off and lets me play football.”
While the go-ahead touchdown was great for Highland, it made things tougher for Mascoutah, which had struggled to score in the first half. “They just had way too many big plays on us and that one at the end of the half was huge with them gaining momentum and then they get the ball coming back out the second half just put us in a tough spot there,” Mascoutah coach Aaron Hilgendorf said. “ Defensively we’d battle for a while and then we’d give up a big third down play. We just gave up too many big plays.”
In the third quarter, Gelly and the Bulldogs passing game got hot as he hit Trent Stock for a 21-yard scoring strike to start the third quarter. Tyson Rakers ran in the two-point conversion making it 21-7 with 11:07 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs then began to pull away as Gelly connected with Dylan Beadle on touchdown tosses of 18 and 6 yards respectively, pushing the lead to 35-7 as the third quarter wound down.
Gelly’s big night was a pleasant sight for Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke. “A couple years we started a freshman quarterback and a sophomore, and you’re just looking for guys that can compete and they’re not ready yet, and his brother (Brendan) was here tonight from boot camp, and I know he wanted to play good for him and he surely did,” Warnecke said. “He was really a difference maker for us on the offensive side of the ball.”
Highland got its final score of the night on a 1-yard run by Phoenix Lewis with 4:32 left to play.
Beating Mascoutah to open the MVC conference schedule was a big boost for the Bulldogs, who were bounced from the Class 5A playoffs by the Indians in the second-round last season.
Meanwhile, Mascoutah has to find a way to rebound after back to back losses at home. “We make too many mistakes and we should be cleaning those mistakes up, and that’s something that’s directly on my shoulders and that we’ve got to clean up and just penalties and execution, playing faster and more physical than the other team, and we definitely didn’t do that tonight,’ Hilgendorf said.
https://www.bnd.com/news/local/community/highland-news-leader/article279409614.html Highland defeats Mascoutah in high school football opener