By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
It may be tough for the Highlands Bluebirds to match last year’s record-setting offensive outputs.
But that does not mean the 2012 version of Highlands football won’t try.
The Bluebirds broke the state record books with 849 points, 121 touchdowns and total offensive yards with 7,517 in a season. Highlands averaged 56.6 points, just more than eight touchdowns and just more than 501 yards per game in 2011, which marked the Bluebirds’ state-record 13th undefeated season.
Senior Donovan McCoy takes over at quarterback this fall. The lefthanded quarterback could give teams tougher looks similar to what Highlands saw when Jared Lorenzen was quarterback in the late 1990s. McCoy threw for 618 yards in backup duty last year to current 2011 Kentucky Mr. Football and Kentucky Wildcat Patrick Towles with six touchdowns.
McCoy caught 36 passes for 723 yards and seven touchdowns last year. But he came up huge at quarterback in the 34-29 at Cincinnati Elder when Towles went down with an injury. It marked the first win in five tries against the Panthers for the Bluebirds.
McCoy completed 11-of-26 for 245 yards including a game-winning 58-yard strike to David Christian. McCoy also added 59 yards rushing on 15 carries with a touchdown. McCoy tributes the offseason programs to the Bluebirds’ success.
“We’re playing teams that have guys that will practice offense on Monday then defense on Tuesday,” McCoy said. “We’ve been practicing offense every day since Jan. 2 and our defensive guys have been doing the same on the other side of the ball.”
McCoy and the seniors look to continue the strong leadership tradition. It is needed more than ever with 96 players on the varsity this year.
“We get together and have laughs together so it’s not as hard as some may think to have good team chemistry among a 96-guy roster,” McCoy said. “But we keep it fun.”
Highlands looks to have a balanced offense again this year. Senior Colin Seidl and junior Zach Harris return as running backs after rushing for 649 and 522 yards respectively. They added 15 and eight touchdowns respectively.
McCoy has plenty of people to throw to at wide receiver such as senior tight end David Chistian and senior wide receivers Jac Collinsworth and Luke Turner. Christian had 572 receiving yards to go with eight touchdowns with Turner hauling in 33 and 508 yards and Collinsworth receiving five touchdowns.
“(Offensive balance) does help,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands head coach. “We didn’t necessarily see it (in Friday’s scrimmage against Trinity), but we’ve got a lot of great football players that we can get the ball to.”
The offensive line may have some small question marks. But talented players like senior center Mitchell Dee look to continue the tradition there.
“We love to be physical,” Dee said. “But we really emphasize using our feet and moving fast. We have a lot of size this year. But in the past, we’ve tried to use our feet and beat people with our speed.”
The Bluebirds saw offensive linemen Aaron Robinson, Jason Waldenmeyer and tight end Ian McGurn take their talents to college. Robinson is at NCAA Division II Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., which is just outside St. Louis. Waldenmeyer signed with NCAA Division III in Terre Haute, Ind.
Aside from Towles, several other skill players are trying their talents at the next level. Wide receiver Austin Sheehan received preferred walk-on status at Kentucky and running back Jake True signed with Division III Wittenburg University in Springfield, Ohio north of Dayton.
The Bluebirds open at home on Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m. against Boyle County.