By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
They ended up quickly erasing the tough first half with a 28-point outburst in the third-quarter.
But the Highlands Bluebirds still would not mind a quicker start in the first half, especially with another tough opponent coming to town. The Bluebirds scored 37 consecutive points en route to a 52-31 victory over the visiting Boyle County Rebels on Friday. That run erased a 24-15 halftime deficit.
“Boyle County executed well in the first half,” Mueller said. “We had (scoring) opportunities in that half and they stopped us. We outplayed them in the second half and wore them down.”
After beating one of its top challengers in Class 4A, the Bluebirds welcome the 2011 state runner-up from Kentucky’s largest Class 6A to Fort Thomas on Friday in the Scott County Cardinals. Scott County finished 14-1 losing 62-21 to Louisville Trinity in last year’s 6A title game. Visiting Trinity knocked off Highlands, 63-31 in a scrimmage on Aug. 10.
Like the Bluebirds, Scott County won its home opener, 46-14 over Louisville Seneca on the same day. But it was not as easy as the score might indicate.
Senior standout tailback Dieries Dumphord sprained his ankle in a preseason scrimmage and did not play on either side of the ball in the win. As of Wednesday morning, Scott County head coach Jim McKee said Dumphord will only play on the defensive side of the ball as a defensive end. McKee also said senior defensive end Akil Campbell will most likely not play either, also because of an ankle injury. Dumphord rushed for 1,148 yards and 19 touchdowns last year.
“It’s unfortunate, but injuries happen. That’s part of football,” McKee told the Georgetown News-Graphic. “The next guy will just have to come in and step up for us.”
The Cardinals more than made up for Dumphord’s loss in the win over Seneca out of their traditional Wing-T offensive attack. They ran for 360 yards as a team. Kevo Edwards ran for 148 yards and Kevin Clausen ran for 110.
“They do such a good job of attacking you at various places,” Mueller said. “They fake well and make it hard to get a good read. Each player has to do his assignment. You can’t say, ‘Oh gosh. They’re hurting us here so I have to quit doing what I was coached to do and do something different.”
Running backs go many different directions in the traditional Wing-T trying to confuse defenses. The main plays in a Wing-T are fullback dives up the middle and wingback sweeps around the corner.
Another common play is the counter criss-cross where the quarterback hands off to a halfback sweeping one way before the halfback hands off to a wingback going the other way trying to get that speedy back out in space.
“As long as everyone holds his gap and does his job, we’ll do just fine,” said Michael Ayers, Highlands junior linebacker. “(Highlands Defensive Coordinator Brian) Weinrich will get us game-ready. We’ll face them and hopefully, come out with a victory.”
Highlands will counter with its 3-4 defense. The Bluebirds did have some problems with Boyle County’s wishbone attack in the first half. The Rebels rushed for 226 yards on 33 carries in the first half led by Seph Burke’s 101 yards on 17 carries with three touchdowns. But the Bluebirds held Boyle to just 56 yards on 19 carries in the second half. Burke finished with 165 yards on 32 carries.
Turnovers played a big key in the second-half turnaround and could play another big role in this game. The Bluebirds recovered two Rebel fumbles and picked off a pass. They scored 19 points off the turnovers.
Depth could again play a huge factor in the game. The Bluebirds currently have 91 players on the roster. Mueller said they had about 50 guys receive playing time while the Rebels had about 20 and that showed in the second half.
Highlands had a lot of success running the football out of its spread attack against Boyle County. The offensive line made holes for the Bluebirds running backs to go for 286 yards after going for just 67 in the first half. Running backs Zach Harris, Jaylen Hayes and quarterback Donovan McCoy ran for 113, 98 and 93 yards respectively in the win.
“We have great running backs,” said Tyler Schweitzer, Highlands offensive lineman. “We need to open holes for them and they’ll make plays for us. We’re very well-conditioned. Our offseason workouts are crazy. We’re always running hard and going 100 percent and that will show in games like it did Friday. We had so much more energy than (the Boyle County defenders).”
The Cardinals ran a variety of five and six-man defensive fronts with mixtures of man and zone coverages. They allowed 173 yards passing to Seneca.
McCoy threw just 10 passes because Highlands had so much success running the ball against Boyle County. He completed four of them for 107 yards including two to Luke Turner for 31 yards and a 57-yard bomb to Colin Seidl.
Game time is 7:30 p.m. at David Cecil Memorial Stadium. The Bluebirds own a 40-game home winning streak and a 21-game winning streak overall.