G. Michael Graham Photo. Highlands defensive back Jackson Bardo (3) tackles Covington Catholic wide receiver Logan McDowell (18) in the first quarter. Highlands beat Covington Catholic, 42-6 to extend its winning streak to 10 games over its big rivals.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
PARK HILLS – Head Football Coach Dale Mueller and staff do not buy into the argument that the annual Highlands Bluebird-Covington Catholic Colonel game is not a rivalry anymore.
This comes even after Highlands dominated Saturday’s game, 42-6 to stay undefeated. The 6-0 Bluebirds have won 10 straight against Covington Catholic improving to 93-3 since the start of 2007. The Colonels (3-2) are the team Highlands has beaten the most during this run.
“It’s big, big, big, big,” Mueller emphasized. “Every day of my life, I think about playing CovCath. It’s the whole season. Historically, the CovCath-Highlands winner is winning the state championship. This one isn’t the important one. The one in the playoffs, if and when we play in the playoffs, is the important one.”
Mueller and staff have not forgotten 2006. The Colonels knocked off the Bluebirds, 29-27 when Kurt Bovard caught a fade pass in the left back of the end zone as time expired on Oct. 27 of that year on the last game of the regular season in Fort Thomas. That marked the first time CovCath had beaten Highlands since 2001 and is the only time dating back to 1996 that the Bluebirds have not won a district championship.
The Colonels then beat the Bluebirds, 25-15 in Park Hills on Nov. 11 a few weeks later in the second round of the playoffs before winning their sixth state championship a few weeks later. John Rodenberg, now the Head Coach at Cincinnati Moeller, coached the Colonels to that crown.
The Bluebirds also have not forgotten what happened in 1997 and 2001. Highlands won the regular-season meeting before CovCath won the playoff rematch.
“We just try to keep getting better every day,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator. “They’re down right now. We know that. We’re not leaving (Park Hills) with any false sense of who we are and who they are. We’re going to play those guys in eight weeks. They’re going to be ready to go.”
Highlands has won all three playoff rematches starting in 2007. The Bluebirds beat the Colonels for the regional championship in 2007, 2011 and last year.
Fourth Most-Common Opponent:
The Colonels are the fourth most-common opponent the Bluebirds have faced since starting their program in 1915. Highlands had faced CovCath and Dayton 60 times each entering the season.
The Bluebirds have only faced Covington Holmes (71 times), Dixie Heights (70) and Newport (66) more than CovCath. Highlands battles Holmes on Oct. 18 in Fort Thomas at 7 p.m.
Highlands senior defensive back Jackson Bardo left the game during the first defensive series. Bardo said he dislocated his left shoulder and had a sling around it. But Bardo said he hopes to return for the next game.
No Luck against defending champs:
Both CovCath losses have been to defending state champions on Saturdays in Park Hills.
The Colonels also lost to Cincinnati Moeller, 45-7 on Sept. 7. The Crusaders, the alma mater of CovCath Head Coach Dave Wirth, won the largest Ohio Division I championship last year.
Highlands Alumni Head Coach updates:
Several Highlands alumni aside from Mueller serve as head coaches around the state.
Chris Wolfe, a 1990 Highlands alum, has the Louisville Male Bulldogs undefeated at 5-0 following a 40-0 over Louisville Ballard on Friday.
Male came into the season tied with Massillon Washington for the third-most wins in program history in the country. The Bulldogs now have 826 wins and are seeking their first state championship since 2000.
But things become tougher for Male in a few weeks playing in the rugged Class 6A, District 4 with state powers Trinity and St. Xavier. After facing Meade County on Friday, Male goes to St. Xavier on Oct. 11.
Three other Highands alums coach in Northern Kentucky. Steven Lickert (Class of 1997) leads the Campbell County Camels down U.S. 27 in Alexandria. The Camels are 3-2 after a bye week. They lost to Conner, 13-12 on Sept. 20.
“I absolutely love to see other guys I’ve coached go on to coach high school and college football,” Mueller said. “Some of the guys on our staff are guys that I’ve coached. It means a lot.”
Jeff Barth (Class of 1995) coaches the young Walton-Verona Bearcat program that started in 2008. The Bearcats are 5-1 following a 48-21 victory over Carroll County on Friday. The Bearcats (10-3 last year) won Class 2A, District 5last year before losing to Newport Central Catholic, 49-14 in the Region 3 championship last year.
Kevin Siple (Class of 1979) coaches the Grant County Braves. The Braves are struggling at 1-4 this year playing in the rugged Class 5A, District 5. They lost 41-20 at Walton-Verona on Sept. 21 in a battle of Highlands alums.
Mueller even said many of his former players at Cincinnati Withrow are also coaching.
The Valdosta Wildcats of South Georgia are the only team in the country that has more wins in school history than Highlands. Valdosta owns 23 state championships and six national championships.
The Wildcats (4-1) lost for the first time on Friday, 14-10 to 1-6A rival Camden County. Valdosta is 880-210-34 with the loss and Highlands is 848-225-26 in its history.
The Wildcats are in their 101st season in school history. They started their program two years before Highlands in 1913.
District 7 update:
Covington Holmes and Harrison County both lost on Friday. Holmes is 3-2 following a 40-7 loss to Beechwood and the Thorobreds are 2-4 after a 50-20 loss at Williamsburg.
Highlands faces Harrison County on Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.
Around Class 4A:
Only two undefeated teams remain in Class 4A aside from Highlands.
They are two names familiar to the Bluebirds in Boyle County and Johnson Central. Both opened district play Friday.
The Rebels (6-0) won 42-6 at Taylor County to open District 5 action. They take on Lexington Catholic (4-2) in Danville on Friday. The only two losses for the Knights came 48-21 to Bowling Green and Louisville St. Xavier (49-28) to open the season.
Out East, the Golden Eagles (5-0) opened District 8 action with a 69-14 win over Boyd County. Johnson Central leads Class 4A averaging 59.4 points per game. The Golden Eagles have scored at least 36 points in all their games.
Three more one-loss teams follow them. They are Owensboro (5-1), Collins (4-1) and Russell County (4-1). Highlands beat Collins for the state championship last year.
Highlands junior varsity, freshman team updates:
The Highlands junior varsity team is undefeated at 3-0. The Bluebirds downed Lexington Catholic, 42-19 on Sept. 16. They take on Covington Catholic on Monday at 6 p.m.
The freshman team is 2-3. The Bluebirds beat Conner on Sept. 25, 13-12. Highlands takes on Boone County at 6 p.m. on Oct. 3.