|G. Michael Graham Photo. Beau Hoge (left) and Austin Hergott (right) stand next in line as quarterbacks of the deeply talented Highlands Bluebirds football team.|
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
Many great names and NCAA Division I recruits have lined up behind center for the Highlands Bluebirds over the years. That list includes Roger Walz, Jared Lorenzen, Gino Guidugli, Will Bardo and Patrick Towles.
For the last couple years, the senior has started with the junior and sophomore serving as back-up and third string respectively. Rising senior Beau Hoge and rising junior Austin Hergott are next in line at the instrumental position after they backed up Drew Houliston last year.
Houliston will take his talents to NCAA Division III Wittenberg University in Springfield (Ohio) after he helped lead Highlands to a 13-2 record and Class 4A runner-up finish. Houliston put up big numbers completing 231-of-339 passes for 4,045 yards, 50 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Highlands averaged 50.6 points and 444.5 yards per game last year.
“I looked up to Drew, especially last year,” Hoge said. “We got really close. I was with him every day. I got to learn how he prepared for certain situations in games and the type of reads he made.”
Hoge hopes to have a similar season this year after serving as a wide receiver last year. Hoge had 21 receptions for 354 yards and three touchdowns last year and completed 36-of-56 passes for 735 yards and 11 touchdowns. He started for the injured Houliston in Highlands’ 71-69 shoot-out win over Warren Central and completed 19-of-31 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns.
“I’m just looking to make the most of every game,” Hoge said. “I focus on every play and try to make them all count. I’ll try to lead by example as much as I can. But if I need to speak up, I’m not afraid to.”
Hoge has an extra advantage in his father Merril Hoge. Merril Hoge played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and currently serves as a National Football League analyst for ESPN.
“I’ll definitely take some advice from my Dad whenever I can get it,” Beau Hoge said. “He knows a lot more than I do. I can always learn from him, but I like to do my own thing as well. I wouldn’t know what it’s like not to have that pressure.”
Highlands historically gears its offense around the quarterback’s talents. Last year, Highlands employed a one-back spread look to take advantage of the depth at wide receiver. In 2011, the Bluebirds often put two running backs in the backfield to take advantage of the running talents of quarterback Donovan McCoy in addition to running backs Colin “Frog” Seidl. Highlands Head Coach Brian Weinrich has mostly worked with the offense in the spring after spending many years as Defensive Coordinator.
“We don’t want to overcoach them too much,” Weinrich said. “They’re quarterbacks for a reason. They have great instincts and talent. We don’t have a stopwatch on them. We’re going to let them get used to running around.”
Beau Hoge and Hergott have shown the ability to make plays when things break down. Hergott completed 9-of-24 passes for 142 yards, a touchdown and one interception. Hergott had a long touchdown run against Covington Holmes. But they prefer to stand in the pocket and find a teammate.
Hergott said he does not plan to play wide receiver like McCoy and Hoge did their junior years. Hergott helped the Highlands junior varsity to a 6-1 mark last year.
“I’m just trying to get better each and every day,” Hergott said. “It’s a matter of doing whatever it takes. The position brings a lot of pressure. Junior varsity is a little more lenient. That lets me relax and focus on my game and get ready for varsity when my time comes.”
Of all the greats that played quarterback, Hergott said he mostly looks up to Towles. Towles currently plays at the University of Kentucky. Hegott stands 6-feet-5-inches like Towles does.
“That’s when I started following (Highlands) football,” Hergott said. “My style is similar to him. I can pretty much contact him whenever I want.”
The Bluebirds just finished spring practice and open the season on Aug. 29 at Campbell County. They scrimmage Louisville Trinity and Cincinnati St. Xavier prior to opening the season.