Highland offense stymied in season’s first road game

Week two of the 2023 football season took the Highland Bulldogs to Central Illinois for a road test against Mahomet-Seymour and the Bulldogs had a much tougher time this week than in their season opener.

Highland’s strong running game led by sophomore quarterback Blake Gelly and senior receiver Dylan Beadle was neutralized by a swarming Mahomet-Seymour defense and a stout ground game led by a pair of Luke Johnson touchdowns powered Mahomet-Seymour to a 28-0 victory over Highland at Mahomet-Seymour on Friday night.

Falling behind early and getting shut out was not the result that Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke was looking for and it left the Bulldogs frustrated a week after putting up 35 points against Breese Central.

“It’s really the first time I can recall someone taking away our run (game) since 2019 against Mascoutah,” Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke said. “We’ve got a lot of guys going both ways and got worn down and really they shut it down the second half. Pretty disappointing.”

Late in the first quarter, Highland (1-1) had its best chance of the night to score on their first drive of the night, but the Mahomet-Seymor defense came up big with a fourth down stop of Gelly at the 4-yard line.

Mahomet Seymour (1-1) answered on the next series as freshman quarterback Ei Dyer connected with junior wideout Trey Peters on a 20-yard fade pass for a touchdown for a 7-0 with 9:57 left in the second quarter.

After a scoreless second quarter, Mahomet Seymour behind their grinding run game led by Johnson, went to work on the Bulldogs defense. Johnson’s 4-yard run to the one set up Brock Vandeveer’s 1-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0 with 4:38 left on tbe third quarter.

A 1-yard Johnson touchdown run pushed tbe lead to 21-0 as the third quarter closed and then Johnson added his second and final score of tbe night on an 8-yard dash with 5:11 left rounding out the Mahomet-Seymour scoring.

Meanwhile, Gelly and the Highland offense could not reach the end zone due to a menacing and opportunistic Mahomet-Seymour defense. Gelly, who was under pressure all night, threw for 240 yards through the air and two interceptions.

“They (Mahomet-Seymour) were bringing a lot of pressure but e problem is when you’re throwing the ball when everybody is expecting you to throw the ball it becomes a lot harder and you’re down two or three scores and it’s second and 12, those are not the times to throw the ball at least with a sophomore quarterback vat the varsity level,” Warnecke said. That’s not a successful recipe for us.”

Mahomet-Seymour also stifled Highland’s running game, holding the Bulldog to just 31 yards rushing. “

“They brought their mike linebacker up in the A gap and kind of ran a two-man stunt game in the A gap with the noseguard and they altered their d ends a little bit but as coaches and players we failed to make the necessary adjustments to be successful,” Warnecke said.

The Bulldogs will look to get back in the win column next Friday at 7 p.m. when Highland hosts Mattoon in a non-conference game.

“After this debacle Friday night we’re certainly not taking anything or any team lightly this year and we feel we’re going to be in a dogfight every week,” Warnecke said. That’s kind where we are with this team this year and we’ll see what’s inside of these boys and we’ll go from there.”