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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bluebird Notebook: Younger players earn playoff experience


G. Michael Graham Photo. Highlands sophomore running back Nicholas Kendall (with ball) breaks free on a 94-yard touchdown run in Friday's 70-6 first-round Class 4A playoff win over Boyd County. Kendall ran for 156 yards on five carries and two touchdowns in the win.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

Many younger Highlands players experienced the playoffs for the first time in Friday’s 70-6 thrashing of Boyd County in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.

The Bluebirds led 56-0 at halftime. That helps Highlands build up experience for the future as many played in the second half.

“It’s a valuable experience for them because a number of those guys will be varsity starters next year,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator. “They are not so much the focus of it, but still, they’re getting in there and getting ready for next year.”

Sophomore wide receiver Eric Miller was one of those players to experience the playoffs for the first time. He caught a pass from quarterback Austin Hergott in the fourth quarter.

“It is pretty cool to get in there when it really matters,” Miller said. “Even getting a catch is pretty awesome. We work hard all year to finally get in.”

Making the 70s:

Highlands scored in the 70s for the 10th time during the 97-3 run since the start of 2007. That includes the fourth time this year with those games coming against its last four Kentucky opponents.

That mark outdid the last time Highlands finished undefeated in 2011. That team led by senior quarterback Patrick Towles and wide receiver Austin Sheehan smashed the state record with 849 points. They scored 71 on Mason County before scoring 79 on Pendleton County and another 77 on Covington Holmes in district action.

Half of those 70-plus scoring games have come against two opponents. The Bluebirds have done it three times to Covington Holmes and twice to Pendleton County.

Highlands has recorded two 70-point games in the first round of the playoffs during that time. The other one came in a 70-8 victory over Woodford County to open the Class 5A playoffs in 2010.

Undefeated in the first round in Mueller Era:

The Bluebirds moved to 20-0 in the first round of the playoffs since Mueller became head coach in 1994.

The average margin of victory for first-round opponents is just more than 45 points during the playoff winning streak. The closest anyone came to beating Highlands during that time is Bryan Station. The Bluebirds escaped 28-22 when Tony Guidugli threw a late touchdown pass to Austin Collinsworth.

Highlands has not gone on the road in the first round of the playoffs since 1995. The Bluebirds won 40-20 at Lawrence County to open the playoffs that year. They finished state runner up in Class 3A that year losing 28-12 to Bowling Green in the title game.

Highlands has not lost in the first round of the playoffs since 1991. The Bluebirds have beaten their last 19 first-round opponents by 842 points for an average margin of victory of just more than 44 a game.

Of the 19 first-round opponents since 1995, six meetings have come against two teams. Highlands has beaten Boyd County and Franklin County three times each. The Bluebirds have also beaten Anderson County and Rowan County twice during that time.

Records against Class 4A, District 8 opponents:

Highlands moved to 30-5-1 against Class 4A, District 8 opponents.

The Bluebirds are 4-0 against Johnson Central and 2-0 against both Greenup County and Rowan County in school history. Every meeting against Rowan County, Johnson Central and Boyd County has come in the playoffs.

They are also 19-5-1 against the Ashland Blazer Tomcats, which comes to Fort Thomas on Friday. Highlands has not lost to Ashand since about the time of Mueller’s birth in 1954. Ashland knocked off 5-6 Covington Holmes, 49-20 in Ashland on Friday.

Another 77 put up against Harrison County:

Johnson Central equaled the Bluebird effort of 77 points scored against the Thorobreds in a 77-13 playoff win in Paintsville on Friday.

That marked the end of another tough season in the rebuilding process for second-year head coach Jim Carr. But Harrison County did make progress finishing 3-8 after going 1-10 last year.

Junior Varsity Notes:

The Highlands Junior Varsity was not able to finish the year undefeated. Scott County beat the Bluebirds, 56-20 on Saturday. Highlands finished the year at 6-1.

Within 30 of Valdosta:

The Bluebirds moved 30 wins shy of tieing the Valdosta Wildcats of south Georgia for the most wins of school history. The Wildcats lost 38-17 to Region 1-AAAAAA rival Coffee County on Friday to conclude the regular season.

Highlands is 852-226-26 in school history since starting its program in 1915. Valdosta started its program in 1913 and is 882-213-34 in that time.

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