By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
High school football teams normally do not have to find new opponents in the second year of two-year contracts.
The Highlands Bluebirds had to find a fill-in opponent in 2012 after Dixie Heights dropped the second year of a two-year contract. But the Bluebirds found a game with Scott County.
They find themselves in a similar situation after Head Coach Brian Weinrich confirmed the University Christian Fighting Christians of Jacksonville (Fla.) could not return to Fort Thomas because of financial reasons. Highlands beat the 2012 Class 2A state champions, 47-17 in a nationally-televised game on ESPN to open last year.
But the Bluebirds reached out to schools on the mass e-mail program Listserv and another Florida team contacted them. The Bluebirds are working on finishing the contract to take on the all-male Miami (Fla) Christopher Columbus Explorers of Florida’s largest Class 8A.
Christopher Columbus, a Marist-based belief school, is the lone private school to compete in 8A. The Head Coach of Explorers is Chris Merritt. Christopher Columbus finished 7-5 last year losing 34-26 to Coral Gables in the second round of the playoffs.
The Explorers have two state runner-up finishes in football in 1980 and 1982 since forming in 1958. Alums of the school include former University of Alabama Head Football Coach Mike Shula, former Cincinnati Reds player Rob Murphy, and former Michigan Wolverine quarterback Brian Griese.
Finding schools to play this late in the year is tough for several reasons. Aside from schools that have filled their schedules, Weinrich said Kentucky teams that had openings did not have openings in the Zero week or Week Seven. Weinrich also noted playing an Ohio team to open the year was not option because Ohio opens the same week of Week One for Kentucky teams.
Highlands is hoping to bring the gold back to Fort Thomas after losing 37-34 to Collins in the Class 4A state championship game last year. The Bluebirds are tied with Louisville Trinity for most football state championships with 22.
That game will be one of two Saturday games this fall. The Bluebirds take on Paducah Tilghman on Saturday, Sept. 20. Highlands played four times on Saturday last year including three in a row in September.
The schools will play in Week 7 on Oct. 11 leaving the Zero Week as the bye week for the Bluebirds. Highlands will open its season at Campbell County on Aug. 29.