G. Michael Graham Photo. Highlands sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Robinson (50) puts pressure on University Christian quarterback Billy Cobb (4) in Saturday's game. Robinson recorded the sack in the Bluebirds' 47-17 win.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
It can be a hard pill to swallow when you’re told you’re out for the entire football season.
The Highlands Bluebirds have endured their fair share of injuries early in the season. But for now, only two will not play this entire season. Senior offensive lineman Johnny Kemplin is out because of back issues and junior running back Josh Watson will miss because of a torn anterior cruciated ligament.
But both still plan to contribute to the team. Kemplin has been filming games.
“Johnny Kemplin is an example of guy that’s out for the good of the team,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands Co-Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator. “We’re a fraternity of guys that are out to help the guys win. They may have injuries, but they're still going to do what they can to help the team win.”
Kemplin still hopes to help the Bluebirds celebrate another state championship. They’ve won 22 overall, including a state-record six in a row.
“The worst way to take care of it is to quit or get down,” Kemplin said. “You have to help out in any way you can even if it is just filling up water bottles, getting bags or even filing it so someone can watch it Saturday when we get done lifting. It’s a great way to help the team. If someone has a question on the offensive line, I can help them the best that I can so I can help win state championships down the road.”
Watson scored a couple touchdowns in backup duty as a sophomore. He hopes to come back stronger for his senior year, especially after running backs Jaylen Hayes and Zach Harris graduate.
“You just do whatever you can to help the team,” Watson said. “I need to work my hardest to come back. I study what I’ve done in the past and the play book. I can still get better physically in the weight room.”
The Bluebirds are especially hurting in the defensive secondary. Defensive backs Andrew Abner and Griffin Urlage missed the game because of various injuries. Urlage said he’ll be back for the Campbell County game and Abner said Friday it would be a game-time decision. Abner ended up not playing.
But the defensive backs did not need to defend too many passes. The three UC quarterbacks combined to complete just 4-of-12 passes for 67 yards.
Game-time temperatures hit 80 degrees. Some players went down because of cramps.
“I had to drink so much water these past couple days I had to go (to the bathroom) so many times,” said Ryan Greene, Highlands senior wide receiver. “We condition and sub a lot so we’re in perfect shape for the kind of style we play. I felt good the whole game.”
Highlands continuously subbed in fresh players. The weather and players going both ways may have had a lot to do with University Christian wearing down in the second quarter.
A good Highlands crowd showed up. But many fans left starting at the end of the third quarter because of the lopsided score and heat.
Settled at quarterback:
Highlands has its order set at quarterback. That order is senior Drew Houliston, junior Beau Hoge and sophomore Austin Hergott. Hoge also plays some wide receiver.
On the other side, University Christian tried three players at quarterback. None threw the ball effectively. That helped Highlands key on the Fighting Chrisitan running attack.
“You don’t really like that when you have a couple quarterbacks in the battle,” Mueller said. “But those are three great quarterbacks. They (UC coaches) came over and said, ‘Wow. Who’s that guy looking at (Austin) Hergott?’ Beau Hoge is a good quarterback, but it’s nice to have a clear number one.”
Many noticed the new and taller scoreboard on the south side of David Cecil Memorial Stadium and the new and wider press box. Highlands recently spent $199,217 on its team last year after spending way less the year before. Booster clubs and nonprofit organizations spent $92,000.
The Highlands Athletic Boosters picked up the tab of $11,500 on the final payment of the field turf that was installed in 2002. The Fort Thomas Education Foundation donated $40,000 for the new scoreboard.
But Mueller also said the community helped Highlands install a $600,000 turf soccer field at Tower Park and add a new basketball and volleyball court at the gym.
“Everything is important in this community,” Mueller said. “This (scoreboard) was for our media department because it is a student-run thing.”
District 7 success:
All four Class 4A, District 7 opponents posted victories over the weekend.
On Friday, Covington Catholic handled Boone County, 48-0 and Covington Holmes downed in-town rival Holy Cross, 48-14 in Ben Nevels debut as head coach. The Indians, led by former Cincinnati Bengal Bruce Kozerski, have struggled going 4-9 since winning the 2A state championship in 2011.
The Harrison County Thoroghbreds knocked off Fleming County, 35-7. Harrison County and second-year Head Coach Jim Carr equaled last year’s win total. The Thoroghbreds finished 1-10 last year.
Pendleton County chose not to partake in district play this year. The Wildcats lost to Carroll County, 44-11 on Friday.