With decisive win over Central, Highland sophomore QB shows varsity stage is not too big

Blake Gelly admitted that he was a bundle of nerves before his first career start as the Highland football team quarterback on Friday night.

It didn’t show. The sophomore signal caller led the Bulldogs offense to three straight scoring drives in the first quarter.

Gelly also scored a pair of rushing touchdowns as Highland rolled to 35-14 season-opening win over Breese Central at Highland High School.

Getting a win in his first start was a relief for Gelly.

“It feels good to get it out of the way. It really does,” Gelly said. “Now it’s just (going) up and up from here really. Just keep working and keep getting better.”

After stopping Central (0-1) on its first series of the game, Highland’s offense went to work on the ground as Gelly capped their first drive of the night with a 4-yard touchdown run with 6:01 left in first quarter.

A second defensive stop gave the Bulldogs the ball again and this time they found the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run by Tyson Rakers for a 14-0 edge.

Highland came up big again on its third series of the quarter as senior Dylan Beadle’s 10-yard scoring run pushed the lead to 21-0 to end the first quarter.

Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke was pleased with effectiveness of the Bulldogs run game against a talented but young Central defense.

“We know the strength of our team this year is to run the ball until we the younger quarterback underneath him a little bit but we’re a running team and we’re deep in the backfield and we like what we’ve got up front and we control the running game defensively, so it’s going to be a physical game when you come play you this year,” Warnecke said.

The Cougars finally managed to get on the board in the second quarter when Preston Baker connected with Griffen Becker on 65-yard bomb, cutting the lead to 21-7 with 9:07 left to the first half.

Highland (1-0) pushed the lead back to 20 on a 1-yard Jack Nimmo run to take a 27-7 lead into halftime break.

Gelly added his second touchdown of the night on a 4-yard scramble with 8:13 left in the third quarter making it 35-7 and left Central coach Brian Short knowing there would be no comeback for his young club in this one.

“The stuff they were doing to us tonight we haven’t seen a lot of but this game’s going to make us better,” Short said. “If want to take the next step which we want to 100 percent, then we gotta play teams like this tonight and learn lessons the way we learned them tonight.”

Gelly showed strong command of the Bulldogs’ offense. The stage was not too big for the first-time starter.

“The offense is looking solid right off the bat and honestly was nervous going out there playing, so I kept taking deep breaths and just sticking to my reads and all in all I think we had the fight,” Gelly said. “It’s just the mental mistakes we’ve got to clean up.”

Warnecke was simply glad to get a week one with a young club that features just three seniors.

“You got a green team here and I think the thing I take from this we were able to get a won week one with a young team at hone and we’ve got a lot we can learn from and get better I week two,” Warnecke said.