Highland struggles to execute against tough Wapello line

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The Highland Huskies fell to the Wapello Indians, 42-13, in a rainy game on Sept. 11. Highland struggled to punch through the tough Wapello line, averaging 4.6 yards per carry for 170 total rushing yards, 105 of which came from senior Owen Donovan alone.

With the run game stifled by Wapello linemen such as Evan Ross with six solo tackles and Keaton McConahay with five solo tackles, the Huskies turned to passing, but were held to only six receptions for a total of 50 yards.

Highland was undersized against Wapello, with the average weight of the Husky team coming in 25 pounds under the average weight of the Indians. Co-head coach Joe Donovan said his team struggled against the size of the Wapello team.

“They’ve got some big dudes in front, they really do,” he said. “They got a good push on us and we didn’t sustain our blocks like we should have.”

The Huskies were able to get on the board early in the first quarter, scoring their first touchdown on a third down after two tackles for loss put them on 14-and-goal. Quarterback Connor Grinstead completed a pass to Carson Nester, who broke through a tackle from Elijah Belzer to reach the end zone.

Things dried up for the Huskies after that, however.

Highland struggled to capitalize off Wapello mistakes, such as near the end of the first quarter when Donovan nabbed an interception on the Wapello 35-yard line but after a 1-yard carry from Donovan and two incomplete passes, ended up punting on fourth-and-eight.

After a Wapello touchdown that brought the score to 42-7, the game switched to a running clock with 4:06 left third quarter, only stopping due to injuries, timeouts, and scores, because of a 35-point lead.

Coach Donovan said Wapello simply did a better job executing on every play, which adds up throughout the game.

“Once they got on a roll, we couldn’t stop them,” he said. “There are little things we need to work on. We weren’t lined up right, the guy wasn’t in the right spot. That’s how they got some of the bigger plays.”

Wapello only managed five receptions, but these included a 66-yard touchdown reception from Caden Thomas (who also scored on a 22-yard catch) and a 32-yard reception from Jake Gustison, his only catch of the game.

In contrast, the Husky’s longest reception was the 13-yard touchdown reception from Nester in the first quarter.

The Huskies were able to regain some momentum near the end of the game and stop the running clock with about two minutes left in the fourth quarter. After a pair of carries from Donovan brought Highland to 4th and 1 in the red zone, Brenton Bonebrake took a handoff from Grinstead and, after Grinstead laid down a textbook block, ran into the end zone.

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