By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
Everyone knows the Highlands Bluebirds football team wears opponents down with its depth.
The Bluebirds do not have any players going on both offense and defense. Only Covington Catholic and Cincinnati Elder matched the Bluebirds in that aspect so they’ve been able to challenge Highlands. Elder handed Highlands its lone loss, 38-24 on Oct. 19.
The Colonels gave the Bluebirds two good games. But Highlands held off its biggest rival, 28-13 in the Class 4A, Region 4 Friday.
Highlands head coach Dale Mueller said CovCath senior Sam Williamson is the lone player to go both ways on either team. Williamson is listed as a defensive lineman, but he plays a few plays on the offensive line.
“Here before the game, I bet there were 220 guys dressed on the field,” Mueller said. “It was absolutely amazing. It looked like it was Ohio State vs. Notre Dame.”
Highlands lists 94 players on its varsity and CovCath lists 88. The Bluebirds did have some players out with injuries, most noticeably wide receiver Jac Collinsworth. He’s been out with back injuries but could return soon. Collinsworth instead helped analyze the game from the library.
Of those 88 players for the Colonels, 21 are seniors. They graduate a lot of skill position players including quarterback Blake Bir.
CovCath does return Sam Dressman and many part of its defense led by linebacker Sam Burchell. Dressman was expected to pick up the load in the running game but spent part of the season injured.
The Bluebirds recorded their 840th win since starting the program in 1915.
That marks the second milestone of the year. Highlands hit 830 with the 60-37 win over Scott County on Aug. 24. The Bluebirds are 840-225-26 with 57 consecutive winning seasons dating back to 1955.
The 840 wins is the most in Kentucky and second-most in the country behind the Valdosta Wildcats of southern Georgia. Valdosta has 876 career wins dating back to 1913.
But the Bluebirds could gain two more wins on the Wildcats with a sixth straight state championship. They came into the season trailing the Wildcats by 41 all-time wins and could trim it to 34. Valdosta lost to North Cobb near Atlanta on Friday to finish its season 7-4 overall.
Out of respect for the Colonels, the Bluebird coaches and players may not admit it publicly. But the “BeatColonels” hashtags on Twitter may indicate some satisfaction with the milestone win coming against CovCath.
The Final Four in 4A:
The Class 4A semifinal matchups have been set for Friday. Highlands will take on District 5 champion Lexington Catholic (11-2) in Fort Thomas.
The Knights came back to beat Boyle County, 27-16 on Friday despite playing without University of Louisville quarterback Kyle Bolin. Bolin tore his anterior cruciated ligament in the last meeting against the Rebels on Sept. 28.
But sophomore Reece Ryan has picked up the slack at quarterback for LexCath. Ryan’s main target is wide receiver David Bouvier and the Knights’ leading rusher is Amoh Kumengisa. Bouvier had eight catches for 130 yards against Boyle County and Kumengisa had 16 carries for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
In the other semifinal, third-ranked and undefeated Warren East (13-0) will take on Collins (10-3). Warren East beat Owensboro, 14-7 for the Region 1 title and Collins beat Louisville Western, 36-20.
Results for other regular-season opponents:
Aside from Covington Catholic, Boyle County and Louisville Western, Highlands’ two other opponents in the first five games of the regular season played for region championships Friday.
Those opponents went 1-4 overall. The only winner was Scott County in Class 6A. The Cardinals (12-1) downed the Simon Kenton Pioneers, 47-9. They face Louisville Trinity in the state semifinals in a rematch of the state title game last year. The Shamrocks squeaked by rival St. Xavier, 15-14 after standout wide receiver James Quick left with an injury in the first half.
Also in 3A, undefeated Bourbon County (13-0) took care of Mason County, 55-13. The Royals finished 8-5 and ended up winning Class 3A, District 6 then took care of Powell County, 48-21 in the first round of the playoffs before beating Fleming County, 55-13 in the second round.