G. Michael Graham Photo. Highlands defensive back Grayson Heck (32) leaps over Harrison County kicker Taylor Bolin (14) while Joey Cochran (24), Nathan Merkle (39) and Brady Murray (18) pave the way for a 65-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Friday's 77-0 win over Harrison County. Highlands moved to 7-0 overall and 94-3 since the start of 2007 with the win.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
It can be tough to wait sometimes from an egotistical standpoint.
But many talented sophomores and even juniors are finding themselves in that position on the deeply talented Highlands Bluebirds football team. One of them is sophomore backup quarterback Austin Hergott. Hergott could start on many varsity teams around the country.
Hergott did not see action in Friday’s 77-0 win over Harrison County. With Cincinnati Elder on the horizon, Highlands Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Dale Mueller wanted to get junior Beau Hoge some repetition with the skill position players. But Hergott and his teammates still practice hard in case someone goes out with an injury.
“It can be rough (waiting) at times,” Hergott said. “But you have to fight through it and know that you’re going to play for one of the top programs in the whole nation. That’s all worth it your senior year.”
Current Highlands starting quarterback Drew Houliston found himself in the same situation two years ago. He backed up Patrick Towles and Donovan McCoy as a sophomore then backed up McCoy last year. Hoge backed up McCoy and Houliston last year.
Highlands recorded its first shutout of the year without several key players. On defense, Seth Hope, Avery McDaniel, Thomas Wrobleski and Jackson Bardo did not play. On offense, Highlands rested wide receiver Evan Allen.
“We’re not healthy now,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator. “So we have a lot of guys out there getting a lot of confidence. I’m not sure how many of the guys could have played. We’re gaining some depth now.”
Another Milestone in Sight:
The next victory for Highlands will be the 850th in school history. The Bluebirds are 849-225-26 since the program began in 1915.
Only one other program has that many wins in school history. That is Valdosta (Ga.). The Wildcats are 880-210-34 since starting their program in 1913.
Hitting the 70s:
Highlands is 94-3 since the start of 2007 with a state-record six consecutive state championships.
The Bluebirds hit the 70s for the seventh time during that run. They scored a 70-0 win over Pendleton County last year. Highlands also scored 70 points against Covington Holmes in 2008 and another 70 against Woodford County in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs in 2010.
“We had a scrimmage against Trinity where we were down 51-0 at halftime (last year),” Mueller said. “We just needed to get Beau in. Those were his first snaps playing quarterback all year.”
But the Bluebirds did it three times in 2011 with Patrick Towles and Austin Sheehan when Highlands shattered the state record with 849 points. They scored 71 on Mason County, 79 on Pendleton County and 77 on Covington Holmes that year.
Defending state champs sock district opponents:
Highlands was not the only team to put up a lot of points against weaker district opponents the previous two days.
The defending Class 5A champion Bowling Green Purples destroyed the District 2 rival Logan County Cougars, 91-10 on Thursday. The Cougars have scored just 38 points all season.
The 7-0 Purples own the state’s longest winning streak with 37 in a row. The state record is 50 straight set by Louisville Trinity from 1988 to 1991.
Defending Class 1A champion Mayfield knocked off Fulton City, 63-0 on Friday. The Cardinals are also undefeated at 7-0.
Dougherty ties school record:
Highlands sophomore kicker Jared Dougherty made 11 extra-point attempts in the win. That tied the school team record set in 2011.
Bowling Green made 13 extra-point attempts in the win over Logan County. That broke the previous record of 12 by Fleming-Neon against Elkhorn City in 2000 and Lexington Catholic against Owen County in 1999.
But unlike Dougherty, the Purples used two different kickers. Hunter Hanks made nine and Lee Ramsey four for Bowling Green.
Record vs. Harrison County:
The Bluebirds improved to 8-0 all-time against the Thorobreds with the win. They’ve won the previous three meetings by a combined 214-10.
Mueller presented game ball:
Highlands Principal Brian Robinson presented Mueller with the game ball at halftime for his 300th career win as a head coach that came in a 33-26 win on Sept. 14 at John Hardin. Mueller owns a career record of 303-65 and 244-34 at Highlands.
Around District 7:
Highlands district rivals Covington Holmes and Covington Catholic picked up non-district wins. CovCath (4-2) rebounded from the Saturday loss to Highlands with a 28-7 win at Beechwood on Thursday. Holmes (4-2) beat Bellevue, 42-36 on Friday.
Around Class 4A:
Region rival Johnson Central downed southern Ohio power Ironton, 56-14 on Friday. The Golden Eagles remained undefeated at 6-0 and go to Greenup County this week.
Boyle County remained undefeated at 7-0 with a crucial District 5 victory over Lexington Catholic (4-3), 22-13. The Rebels don’t figure to be challenged the rest of the regular season.