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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Outworking the Competition

G. Michael Graham Photo. Highlands Co-Head Football Coach Brian Weinrich guides the players in a recent offseason workout. The Bluebirds expect to have about 100 players on the sidelines this fall.

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The Highlands Bluebirds football tradition of outworking opponents in the offseason seems to be continuing this winter.

About a month after winning their state-record sixth consecutive state championship, the returning players hit the conditioning and weight lifting regime hard. The players work out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

If opposing players, coaches and fans were astonished at the number of players on the Blue and White sideline last year, this will really blow them away. It’s a reason the Bluebirds tend to be deeper than most of their opponents and are currently tied with Honolulu Iolani (Hawaii) High School for the most consecutive state championships in the country.

“We have had about 80 guys show up each day,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands co-head coach. “During the winter, the 20 basketball players and one swimmer that will play football didn’t attend so we expect about 100 guys on the team next year.”

The Bluebirds dressed 91 players on varsity last year. They faced some opponents that had about 30 to 40 players on the sidelines.

“When you have as many people that we have that come out for weight and conditioning, it creates more depth on the team,” said Kyle Thurston, Highlands rising senior offensive lineman. “Everybody wants to play. We all try as hard as we can to get on the field.”

There were many times that Highlands faced better players in practice. But they still made sure they dominated the opponents. They knew they would not play if they did not play hard.

“When you have numbers like that, you just have more chances of developing more quality athletes,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands co-head coach. “It’s a good problem right now because of the space. We’re trying to find places to put everybody. We’re pretty creative in the things we do.”

A typical day starts with stretching, lifting weights then doing different workouts on a daily basis. Weinrich said the emphasis is to work different muscles and develop the total body. Weinrich also said the staff wants to find workouts that challenge the bodies and minds of the players. This includes position work.

“It’s definitely all worth it,” said Seth Hope, Highlands rising senior defensive lineman. “Even though it’s really tough, I like doing it, especially after we win all these games and have all these rings. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing. We’re all friends.”

The Bluebirds pride themselves on having players go just one way. They often wore down opponents doing that. They get to spend extra work on that one position as opposed to splitting up the week with both positions.

“We were talking in the weight room as coaches that we almost feel bad because we don’t have to be in their face,” Weinrich said. “We can walk around and talk to the guys. They’re so self-motivated right now that it’s almost scary. With that, we can find time to have some fun. We’re going to get better at the end of the day.”

The Bluebirds know they have to keep the motivation level high because every team is gunning for them. But Highlands has withstood pretty much every challenge going 87-3 in the last six years.

“You have to do everything hard. You can’t hold back on anything,” Thurston said. “Even if the people you face are small, you still have to go 100 percent. We just want to win every game by as much as we can and not hold back on anything.”

Mueller said the one loss last year 38-24 to Cincinnati Elder made the Bluebirds stronger. The defensive line is trying to better prepare for huge offensive lines.

“Last year, I was at 230 pounds and was the biggest guy on the field on the defense,” Hope said. “Some of those guys were pushing 350. Right after that loss, we started lifting every day before every practice to get bigger and stronger to compete at the next level. That’s the only thing that held us back. We’re going to make that extra push to get to the top on the national stage.”

In other news, Highlands recently had a big-name visitor on campus. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer came to Fort Thomas. The Buckeyes are recruiting Hope.

“I’m real close to making my dreams happen,” Hope said. “I always wanted to play (NCAA) Division I college football. We’ll see what kind of opportunities come at the end of next year.”

The regular season starts in August. Highlands will face six different opponents this year. More details will come when the schedule is finalized.

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