By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
The Highlands Bluebirds football team does not like to leave things to chance.
That is why the Bluebirds work on playing to their standards on a daily basis in practice to make sure they dominate in games they’re heavily favored in such as Friday. Host Highlands dominated the Pendleton County Wildcats, 70-0 at David Cecil Memorial Stadium just like last year’s 79-0 route in Falmouth.
Highlands moved to 7-0 overall and a step closer to another district championship at 3-0 in Class 4A, District 7 action. The Bluebirds moved to 80-2 since the start of 2007. They have won 27 in a row and 44 consecutive at home with their 835th win in school history.
“We executed well,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands Co-Head Coach. “We were really emphasizing blocking and getting off blocks. Just watching from the sidelines, it looks like we did that.”
Pendleton County (1-7, 0-3) has been outscored 427-135 on the year, including 204-7 in district action. The Wildcats need to beat visiting Harrison County on Oct. 19 to get into the playoffs.
Highlands has 57 touchdowns, 398 points and 3,637 yards of total offense for the year. That’s an average of about 8.1 touchdowns, 56.9 points and 519.6 yards a contest. Highlands’ average margin of victory vaulted to 39 points with the win.
The Bluebirds did it with their vaunted rushing attack out of their spread attack. They outgained the Wildcats, 644-178 in total offense, including 496-116 on the ground.
“(Practice) was pretty intense,” said Kyle Thurston, Highlands junior offensive lineman. “We did hitting drills every day and went all out. Every game is important. Everyone should try as hard as he can.”
Four Bluebirds rushed for 100 or more yards. The Highlands running backs found room behind their offensive line and downfield blocking from the wide receivers.
Zach Harris led the way with 137 yards on nine carries with three touchdowns for an average of about 15.2 a carry. Harris has run for 529 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Teammate Colin Seidl followed with four carries for 111 yards and three touchdowns for an average of 27.75 per attempt for the Bluebirds. Jaylen Hayes added 117 yards on five carries with a touchdown for an average of 23.4 per carry and Josh Watson ran for 100 yards on five carries with a score for an average of 20 a touch. Hayes has 348 yards rushing this year and Seidl has 316.
Quarterback Drew Houliston guided the offense in the first half and Beau Hoge took over in the second half. The Bluebirds elected to rest quarterback Donovan McCoy and other players.
Houliston completed 5-of-8 passes for 138 yards. Hoge threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jack Telek in the third quarter. Ryan Greene had two receptions for 72 yards and Jack Grimm had another for 43 yards.
Pendleton County ran for 116 yards and passed for 62. The Wildcats ran the shotgun read-option and running back Austin Pyles led the way with 18 carries for 102 yards for an average of about 5.7 a carry.
“We call that the zone read,” Mueller said. “They did it well. We were impressed with their (running) back (Pyles) and quarterback (Adam Koeninger). We didn’t necessarily make any adjustments with it. We just tried to play it better.”
Pendleton County did drive past midfield a couple times. But the Bluebirds held on fourth-down a couple times on their way to their first shutout of the year. They also held Mason County without a touchdown on Sept. 14.
“You just have to read their guards and know what to do,” said Reid Schroeder, Highlands senior linebacker. “We just have to play fast. We want them to spin outside and never go inside.”
The Bluebirds led 28-0 after the first quarter. Harris had touchdown runs of 15 and 30 yards. Seidl added a 25-yard score and Houliston completed a 59-yard touchdowns pass to Greene.
Highlands extended the lead to 49-0 at halftime to force the running clock in the second half. Seidl scored on 68 and 12-yard scampers and Harris ran up the middle for a nine-yard touchdown run.
The Bluebirds led 63-0 entering the third and scored one more touchdown in the fourth quarter. After Telek’s score in the third, Hayes scored his touchdown on a 30-yard scamper and Watson concluded the scoring in the fourth on a 75-yard run.
Highlands concludes district action Friday at Covington Holmes (5-2, 2-0). Game time is 7:30 p.m.