By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matter Sports Reporter
Everyone associated with the Highlands Bluebirds football team knew this was bound to happen.
The Bluebirds had been playing good, but not great football by their standards. So they had an intense week of practice and ended up thrashing the visiting Mason County Royals, 61-3 at David Cecil Memorial Stadium on Friday for Homecoming.
“We’re really pleased with what we did in all aspects of the game,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands head coach. “We really feel we have a number of All-State caliber players and we hadn’t been doing that yet.”
Class 4A’s top-ranked Bluebirds moved to 4-0 overall for its 24th consecutive win and 42nd straight home win improving to 77-2 since the start of 2007. Mason County dropped to 1-4. They Royals are 3-12 since the start of 2011 after two straight seasons losing in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Highlands came into the game with an average margin of victory of 24 points and also averaged 54.3 points and 512.3 yards per contest. The Bluebirds obliterated the first average and ended up topping the other two outgaining the Royals, 571-128 in total offense.
The Bluebird defense played its best game of the year coming out and hitting hard. The first three opponents averaged 30.3 points and 264.3 yards per contest rushing. Highlands held Mason County to 51 yards rushing on 25 carries for an average of just more than two yards a touch.
The Bluebirds keyed on Mason County standout tailback Rashon Nelson holding him to 45 yards on 13 carries. Nelson ran for 191 yards on 35 carries and two touchdowns in Mason County’s 37-22 win over Harrison County last week.
“We really worked on what we messed up against Louisville Western,” said Austin Peterson, Highlands senior defensive lineman. “We stayed closer to the line (of scrimmage), stayed lower and made sure we kept our gaps and played fast.”
The Bluebirds moved the ball up and down the field at will against the Royals mostly through the air and did not punt in the contest. Senior quarterback Donovan McCoy completed 33-of-44 passes for 75 percent. His completions to 11 different receivers netted an even 400 yards of total offense with six touchdowns.
Sophomore backup quarterback Beau Hoge completed Highlands’other pass attempt. It was a 16-yarder to Ryan Donovan in the fourth quarter.
Highlands opened up its passing game more against Louisville Western after dominating Boyle County and Scott County on the ground to open the season. McCoy completed 25-of-54 passes for 456 yards and four touchdowns in the previous three contests.
Nick True led Highlands with seven catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns and Jac Collinsworth had five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown. Jensen Feggins, Ryan Greene and Luke Turner had one touchdown reception each for the Bluebirds.
“We knew we had to get our passing game going,” Collinsworth said. “We’d had our running game going for a while now. We wanted to work on our routes, get Donovan some throws and really get our guys going. We really took our biggest step up as far as our passing game.”
Highlands only ran the ball 11 times in the contest. Most of the runs came in the second half with the game out of reach. Donovan led the Bluebirds with 125 yards rushing on eight carries with two touchdowns. McCoy had the other three carries for 30 yards and his ninth rushing touchdown of the year.
Highlands opened the game with an oneside kick and recovered it. The Bluebirds drove down the field and scored when McCoy zigged and zagged through the Mason County defense for a 7-yard score to put the Bluebirds up for good at 6-0.
Highlands scored two more touchdowns in the first quarter to go up 20-0. Feggins hauled in a 6-yard pass and Collinsworth hauled in his first touchdown pass of the year from a yard out.
Mason County put together its longest drive to start the second quarter completing some short passes. The Royals hit a 30-yard field goal to cut the margin to 20-3. But Highlands responded with 14 in the quarter to go up 34-3 at halftime when Greene caught an 8-yard touchdown pass and Turner hauled one in from 47 out.
“We just started playing (the short passes) better,” Mueller said. “Sometimes, you can get a play on our defense once. But it’s hard to come back and get it a second time because once we’ve seen it, we’re pretty much ready for it.”
Highlands put the game away in the third to force the running clock. True hauled in 5 and 8-yard touchdown receptions and Donovan scored from two yards out in the third and four in the fourth for their touchdowns.
The Bluebirds return home Friday to face Blake Bir and the arch-rival Covington Catholic Colonels (4-1) back at David Cecil at 7 p.m.