By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
While the offense may receive a lot of credit, the Highlands Bluebird defense is not to be underestimated.
The Bluebirds held opponents to just 12.7 points per game last year. They return a lot of experience in the secondary in Blake Schutte, Quentin Murray and Ben Streeter. The trio combined for nine interceptions last year.
“(Highlands Defensive Coordinator Brian Weinrich) says to never look back so we’re never looking at the quarterback. We’re either playing Cover-2 or Man defense,” Murray said. “But we never look back at the quarterback because that’s when the receiver can make an extra move and score. It’s about staying on our guy, using our feet, and keeping (receivers) from catching balls.”
The Bluebirds scored eight defensive touchdowns last year. That accounted for just under seven percent of the state-record 121 touchdowns Highlands scored last year.
“That’s always been a key here,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands head coach. “We always win the turnover battle. That’s just such a part of all football. We have a bunch of athletic guys on defense to make that happen.”
The Bluebirds face several talented quarterbacks this year. The main ones are Covington Catholic senior Blake Bir and Ryle senior Nathan Davis.
Graduation hit the Highlands’ front seven hard. But at Highlands, that only means more talent is ready to step in. Senior Gabe Schultz and junior Seth Hope anchor things up front with Connor Poston and Thomas Wrobleski leading the secondary. The backups received a lot of playing time in blowouts to gain some experience last year.
“When the younger guys received more playing time, it helped their confidence grow,” Schultz said. “It made them all-around better football players.”
The Bluebirds also have another valuable defender in their fans at David Cecil Memorial Stadium. Highlands plays there six times this year, including tough games against Boyle County, Scott County, Cincinnati Elder and Covington Catholic.
“We love having the whole town come to our games,” Schultz said. “We have all our friends in the stands and the cheerleaders doing what they do. Whole families come to see us so it’s a big party.”
Highlands saw several defensive players take their games to the next level. Twins Drake and Devin Bruns took their talents to the University of Cincinnati. Drake Bruns will be a defensive back and Devin Bruns received preferred walk-on status on the defensive line. Teammate and linebacker Josh Quillen signed with Wittenburg University in Springfield, Ohio, which is north of Dayton.
The Bluebirds appear to be solid in this department as well. Junior Luke Brockett returns as kicker after booting 43 kicking points last year. Senior J.C. Mettens could take over the punting duties.
Colin Seidl is the lead kick returner from last year. He tallied 326 yards and two touchdowns on eight returns. But several players may get a crack at returning punts and kicks.
The Bluebirds open at home on Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m. against Boyle County.