By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
The Highlands Bluebirds defense wanted to contain Lexington Catholic wide receiver David Bouvier in Friday’s state semifinal contest.
The Bluebirds accomplished the feat in the 61-28 victory. Bouvier had just three catches for 41 yards. His longest catch went for 18 yards.
“They (Highlands defenders) just hung in there all game long and kept playing (hard),” said Dale Mueller, Highlands Co-Head Coach. “I felt like we played great. We had a lot of diversity.”
Bouvier came into the game with 83 catches for 1,240 yards and six touchdowns. Bouvier had eight catches for 130 yards in LexCath’s 27-16 semifinal win over Boyle County.
“Anytime you take away their biggest threat, it’s always a good thing,” said Jake Heck, Highlands senior defensive back. “I feel like we did a great job of covering him. That’s pretty much what won us the ballgame. Our secondary had to play back and keep everything in front of us.”
Then on special teams, Highlands did not allow a kickoff return for a touchdown. Opponents had scored several touchdowns on kickoffs this year.
“(Bouvier) is a good player,” Mueller said. “But we weren’t so concerned with who we kicked to. We felt fine with our downfield tackling.”
LexCath sophomore quarterback Reece Ryan completed 17-of-32 passes for 144 yards and an interception. Highlands junior linebacker Joey Cochran picked him off in the first. Ryan was also sacked three times. Seth Hope recorded one sack and Brady Murray had another.
Seven different Knights recorded receptions. Casey Nash had three for 42 yards and Noah Mitchell finished with four for 25 yards.
The Knights did try to mount a running game. They came into the contest averaging about 139 yards a contest on the ground. Ryan broke free a couple times finishing with 63 yards on 19 carries for an average of 3.3 a carry.
“We just kept playing our game,” Cochran said. “We came into this game knowing we’d have to pass rush. We take pride on our speed. We know we’re not the biggest. But that’s our game.”
Teammate Marcelis Logan finished with eight carries for 69 yards and one touchdown for an average of about 8.6 a carry.
The Bluebirds now have 104 touchdowns, 734 points and unofficially 6,950 yards of total offense for the year. Those numbers average about 7.4 touchdowns, 52.4 points and 496.4 yards of offense a game. Highlands hit the 60-point mark for the fourth time this year and garnered more than 600 yards of total offense for the third time.
They may not be able to hit the records of last year’s state championship team with 121 touchdowns, 7,517 yards in total offense and 847 points. But this year’s team could find itself in the top five of those categories.
Highlands moved to 841-225-26 all-time with the victory.
Looking at Collins:
The Highlands Bluebirds will be playing in their 13th state championship since Mueller came on board in 1994.
But this will be the first one for the Martha Layne Collins Titans, a third-year high school that formed in 2010 in Shelby County outside Louisville. The school is named after Martha Collins, the first female governor of Kentucky, who is a native of Bagdad in Shelby County.
The football team under Jerry Lucas has gone deeper into the playoffs each year posting a record of 33-8. The Titans have met Louisville Western in three straight regional finals. The Warriors beat the Titans, 31-26 in 2010 before the Titans returned the favor, 13-12 last year and 36-20 this year. Collins lost 20-15 at Franklin-Simpson in the state semifinals last year.
The Trojans dominated previously unbeaten and third-ranked Warren East, 58-7 in the semifinals on Friday. Quarterback Lawson Page completed 14-of-18 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns of 26 yards each to Logan Bailey and Nathan Sames.
“I promise you we’ll give (Highlands) a fight,” Page told the Courier-Journal after the game. “That’s the best defense we’ve played all year.”
Collins scored 58 points on a stingy Raider defense. Warren East allowed just 97 points coming into the contest.
Controversial Flag Pick-Up:
On the third play of the third quarter, Ryan fired a pass to Logan in the left flats. The pass hit his arms and came out when Logan tried to make a move.
Initially, the officials ruled a fumble on the play and gave the ball to Highlands. Hope and Ben Streeter hopped on the ball for the Bluebirds. However, the officials did get together and ruled the pass incomplete. Replay backed up the decision.
However, while the officials conversed, Lexington Catholic head coach Bill Letton came out and started pointing fingers at them. One threw a flag on Letton for unsportsmanlike conduct, but the officials picked it up. Ryan scored a touchdown a few plays later.
The officials did a good job keeping the game under control. There were no ejections despite high emotions at times.
Highlands committed 10 penalties for 112 yards and Lexington Catholic drew five for 50. The Bluebirds drew three for 15 yards and the Knights had one on a pass interference call.
Close call in Shamrock Land:
Highland and Louisville Trinity are both seeking their state-record 22nd state championships. The Shamrocks had to escape Friday’s semifinal contest against Scott County to move on.
Trinity (12-1) found itself down 14-0 entering the fourth quarter against the Cardinals, but rallied with 21 fourth-quarter points. Quarterback Travis Wright completed a 67-yard pass to Dylan Dawkins for the game-winner.
The Shamrocks played without senior standout wide receiver James Quick. He fractured his ribs in last week’s 15-14 win against rival St. Xavier.
The Cardinals ended a brilliant season at 12-2. Their only other loss came 60-37 at Highlands on Aug. 24.