By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
The Highlands Captains and Boyle Co. Captains Meet at Mid-Field for the Coin Flip
It looked as though the visitors might challenge the overall and home winning streaks of the Highlands Bluebirds football team at halftime.
But the Bluebirds dashed those hopes quickly with 37 unanswered points en route to a sound 52-31 victory over the Boyle County Rebels on Friday at David Cecil Memorial Stadium. Highlands preserved its 40-game home winning streak and won its 21st overall. The Bluebirds snapped the Rebels’ 30-game winning streak with a 35-14 win in Danville to open the 2011 campaign.
Highlands outgained Boyle County, 460-414 in total offense. But at halftime, the Rebels held the advantage, 255-92. The Bluebird defense made some adjustments at halftime (see side story) against Boyle’s wishbone attack.
The Bluebirds exploded for 286 yards rushing in the second half after managing just 67 in the first half. They finished with 353 yards rushing on 37 carries for an average of about 9.5 per touch against an experienced front seven of Boyle County’s 4-4 defense. The Bluebird running backs made plenty of adjustments with the ball in their hands.
“Most running plays are designed to go one place,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands head coach. “But linemen may overpursue one way so the back takes it the other way.”
Junior Zach Harris led the way with 113 yards rushing and a touchdown on 20 carries. Fellow running back Jaylen Hayes had five carries for 98 yards with two touchdowns and quarterback Donovan McCoy ran for 93 yards on 10 carries with four touchdowns.
Many thought the Bluebirds would try to test the young Rebel secondary out of their spread offense. McCoy did complete 4-of-10 passes for 107 yards. Two went to Luke Turner for 31 yards and Colin Seidl had one catch for 57 yards in the fourth quarter.
“We started off running the ball and we were killing them so why change something that is not broken,” Harris said. “We just kept pounding the ball inside. Our offensive line did a great job moving everybody. They were getting tired because they have guys going both ways. It was easy running after the first half.”
The Bluebird running backs have no problems trying to get the extra yards. They often lowered their shoulders before the Boyle County defenders tried to tackle them.
“When you’re running the ball, you have to run it as hard as you possibly can every down,” Harris said. “That is the way we’re taught. We have a great running back coach (Jason Lynch). He always tell us if you’re going out of bounds to give someone a hit that way they won’t hit you next time. You don’t ever want to go out of bounds. You want to get that extra yard every time.”
Highlands took full advantage of the three Boyle County turnovers. The Bluebirds scored 19 points off them.
The Bluebirds used two of those scored to take the lead for good in the third quarter. Highlands needed just two plays to score after a Boyle fumble. Harris had a 15-yard run and McCoy scored from two yards out after a Rebel offsides penalty to trim the Rebel lead to 24-22 after an Evan Allen kick with 9:59 left in the third quarter.
“The best thing about (the rally) was the play of the players when they were down nine at half,” Mueller said. “Boyle got the ball to start the second half. We stopped them, scored, stopped them, scored right off the bat so it was the composure of the guys.”
Another fumble gave Highlands the ball at the Rebel 45. McCoy ran to the right for an 18-yard score to put the Bluebirds up 28-24 with 6:14 remaining.
Highlands added two more quick scored to complete the 28-point outburst in the third quarter. Hayes broke free on an outside sweep and took it 80-yards down the left sideline before cutting back inside for the score and McCoy added a 47-yard run to put the Bluebirds up 43-24 after the third quarter.
The Bluebirds put the game out of reach in the fourth. Allen booted a 20-yard field goal and McCoy added another 2-yard run to give Highlands a 52-24 advantage with 2:52 left in the game.
Highlands QB Donovan McCoy runs it in from 2 yards out
Highlands continues action with another home game. The 2011 Class 6A state runner-up Scott County Cardinals come to town for a 7:30 p.m. contest.