By Adam Tumino
A relentless running attack sent the Highland Bulldogs (6-3, 4-1) to a 42-14 victory against Charleston (3-6, 2-4) on Friday evening, ending the Trojans’ most successful season since 2016.
Highland employed a pair of big running backs in junior Logan Chandler and senior Cam Nelson in the non-conference matchup, and Charleston defenders had a difficult time dragging either of them down.
Chandler, who is 5 feet 11 and weighs 200 pounds, entered the game averaging 155.5 rushing yards per game. He only played in the first half in which he recorded 72 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Nelson carried the ball just six times, all in the second half, but the 5-foot-9, 225-pound running back recorded 46 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per carry.
Charleston coach Jerry Payne said that it was difficult for the Trojans to overcome the size of the pair of Bulldogs.
“We had not really seen that this year,” Payne said. “We kept talking to our kids about going low, but in the heat of battle, they’re so used to hitting in the same spot it’s kind of hard for them to adjust to it.”
The Bulldogs ran the ball on 71 percent of their plays as seven ball carriers combined for 343 yards on 42 carries. Highland’s freshman quarterback Brent Wuebbles led both teams with 123 rushing yards.
With the win, Highland advanced to the state playoffs for the eighth consecutive season and the 15th time in the last 20 seasons.
On offense, the Trojans gained 258 total yards, 114 passing and 144 rushing.
Senior Brayden Doyle led the team with 60 rushing yards on 10 carries and junior Cory Spour added 53 yards on eight carries.
Cheney threw for 108 yards on 12-of-23 passing and ran the ball eight times for 28 yards. He also threw a touchdown, a 16-yard strike to Sam Schuette, and ran for a 6-yard score. Schuette caught six passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Cheney also threw three interceptions, two of which came in the fourth quarter.
“I saw some holes and was able to make plays,” Cheney said of his scores. “But we also came up short a couple times, and that’ll stick with me.”
The Trojans were also burned by two holds and a false start in the fourth quarter, stopping a potential comeback from coming to fruition.
Despite the loss, Charleston had its winningest season since 2016, when they also went 3-6. The Trojans were winless in both 2017 and 2018 before winning their opening game this season.
Cheney and Doyle both said that ending that losing streak was their favorite moment of their final season as Trojans.
“Coming home and ringing the bell was, well, it’s hard to put into words,” Doyle said.
Payne praised his team’s attitude throughout the last few seasons that allowed them to pick up a few wins this season.
“They always fought all the way to the end,” Payne said. “We always preach to them, ‘Don’t pay attention to the scoreboard. Just keep playing hard,’ and these kids did that. They showed that they had heart and they had determination, and that was the biggest accomplishment that we got this year.”