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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Highlands football adjusts to more offseason changes

G. Michael Graham Photo. A new weight room facility and parking lot are among the things being built in Death Valley at Highlands High School.
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

Off to the south of David Cecil Memorial Stadium is a place known as Death Valley.

It once housed the field of the Highlands softball team and served as a practice field for the football team. It is currently covered in construction.

As part of the school’s renovation project, the school is building a few things there. One is a parking lot and the other is a two-story building. The top level will include a weight room overlooking the field.

“It’s going to be a phenomenal facility. It’s going to just about double the size of our weight room now,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Football Coach. “With having 100 guys on the varsity team, our weight room is way too small. This is going to make lifting much more efficient. We’ll get a lot more done. It only helps improve these guys as athletes.”

The school made some changes to the football field last offseason. Highlands installed a new press box and scoreboard.

Weinrich said the hope is to have the field house ready by next offseason. The new weight room will also have new equipment.

Camp Week:

The Highlands players and coaches held their annual camp this week. The campers ranged from the second through the eighth grade.

“We’re just showing them kind of what we do,” said Tyler Robinson, Highlands junior defensive lineman. “Then at the end, we have fun with them so they think it’ll be fun when they come to high school.”

The weather turned out fine Tuesday. It rained some in the morning before giving way to sunshine in the afternoon.

No Changes to District Opponents:

Many people have said the Grant County Braves could go independent for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Grant County Director of Athletics Steve Thompson did write some e-mails to Kentucky High School Athletic Association Commissioner Julian Tacket about some options. But nothing has changed.

“I hear a lot of people saying, ‘I read this and I read that,” Weinrich said. “They are definitely in our district. We’ve already got our contracts signed with them.”

Highlands has won all six meetings in school history with Grant County. The other two opponents in Class 5A, District 5 will be Covington Catholic and Dixie Heights.

The Bluebirds also completed their non-district contracts for 2015 and 2016. Highlands will face seven Class 6A opponents in non-district action. The Bluebirds will take on Cooper, Campbell County, Scott County, Ryle, Louisville St. Xavier, Simon Kenton and Boone County. Highlands has not played Simon Kenton since 1998. This will also mark the first-ever meeting against Cooper.

“These guys know each other,” Weinrich said. “We’re a Northern Kentucky team. We’re excited about playing a Northern Kentucky schedule and getting a feel for each other. It’s going to make us feel more a part of Northern Kentucky.”

Scott County won the 6A state championship last year. Highlands defeated the Cardinals, 60-37 in 2012. The Bluebirds last played Louisville St. Xavier in 2006. They are 2-4 in school history against the Tigers.

“Scott County is right down the road basically. Louisville St. Xavier is down the road in Louisville so they’re not far away,” Weinrich said. “When they both come here, they’ll bring good crowds. Every game will be a local game and/or a good crowd so we’re real excited from a high school football experience. When you play some of these teams so far away, it’s hard to get fans to travel. You don’t necessarily get that feeling all the time.”

Highlands hit the road for two long road trips to John Hardin and Paducah Tilghman last year. The two come to Fort Thomas this year. The Bluebirds travel to Warren Central to finish the season this year.

Moving on without Feggins:

The Bluebirds not only graduated 32 seniors from last year’s Class 4A state runner-up squad, they will be without their leading receiver. Jensen Feggins decided to reunite with his dad, Howard Feggins, at Warren Central for his senior year. Howard Feggins had been an assistant at Norfolk State (Virginia) before taking the job at Warren Central.

“Honestly, I’m really happy for Jensen Feggins and his whole family,” Weinrich said. “His Dad has been a college coach. That is such a hard way to live a family life. We’re excited that they get to be a family for a year. I told our guys that they should feel good about themselves that he even considered staying for a minute because he had such a good relationship with these guys.”

Feggins had 51 receptions for 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. Alex Veneman will now be the leading returning receiver with 35 catches for 890 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Bluebirds will need other receivers like Justin Weyer and Cashel Coughlin to step forward to make up for Feggins’ productivity.

“We’re going to miss him. He was a good friend and even better player,” Coughlin said. “I don’t blame him at all for his decision. We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’re going to keep working hard and getting better and not looking back. That’s what Highlands football does.”

Highands opens the season on Aug. 29 at Campbell County. Game time is 7 p.m.

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