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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Highlands escapes Campbell County, 23-16

Allen Ramsey. Highlands senior wide receiver Justin Weyer (4) tries to make a catch against Campbell County's Eli Matthews (13) in Friday's non-district game in Alexandria. Highlands won 23-16.
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The game started off on the usual great note for the visitors Friday.

The tradition-rich Highlands Bluebirds scored 23 points in the first quarter and appeared headed for another blowout win. But that didn’t happen. The defenses took over and the Campbell County Camels made a late run before Highlands escaped with a 23-16 win.

“We came out and executed well. (Campbell County) didn’t make any adjustments,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. “They were just sound with what they were doing. They took away some stuff. Give them credit. They played hard until the very end. It could have gone either way at the end. We’re happy that we came away with the win. That’s what you have to do.”

Highlands unleashed senior quarterback Beau Hoge and he gave the Camels fits with his arm and feet in the Bluebird spread offense. Hoge completed 15-of-29 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball 12 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

Hoge hit his top target in senior wide receiver Alex Veneman five times. Veneman finished with 66 yards and a touchdown.

“(Hoge) gives us another option to extend plays,” Weinrich said. “There are going to be some big plays at some point.”

The offense drove inside the Campbell County 10-yard line three times during the game, but came away with no points. The Bluebirds lost a fumble at the Camel 3 on the opening drive. They also had 14 penalties for 112 yards compared to six penalties for 64 yards on the Camels.

Highlands still outgained Campbell County, 356-254 in total offense. The Camels ran quarterback draws and sweeps with junior quarterback Carson Plessinger just more than 60 percent of the time on 35-of-58 plays behind their offensive line that averages 6-feet and 235 pounds. Plessinger finished with 135 yards rushing.

Plessinger completed just 3-of-9 passes for 80 yards. One went for 57 yards to Matt Mayer in the fourth quarter.

“We lost a little bit of intensity in the third quarter,” said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. “(Plessinger) is just a really good back. He just continues to move his feet, get his legs going and gains extra yards. One thing he does well is fall forward. We didn’t keep driving him back. We felt like we were doing pretty well (getting to him), then he would get an extra yard or two.”

The Highlands offensive line gave Hoge plenty of time. He sometimes stood in the pocket for five seconds before running or throwing the ball. The Bluebirds moved senior Matt Gall and junior Bo Hebel to the offensive side of the ball after they played on the defensive line last year.

“I think we’ve improved every week,” Hebel said. “We just shot ourselves in the foot a lot. We need to get rid of all the penalties. We’ll need to be sharper the next time we come out.”

After the lost fumble in the first quarter, Highlands senior defensive lineman D.J. Mills sacked Plessinger in the end zone for a safety with 7:54 left in the quarter. The Bluebirds struck quickly after Veneman returned the free kick to the Campbell County 40-yard line. Veneman burned the Camel defense for a 40-yard score just 18 seconds later to put Highlands up 9-0.

“We definitely wanted to start off in a positive way,” Jones said. “I felt like we came out and played well for the first game. There is obviously some things we need to do better. So we’ll continue to work on that and look at the things we do well and get ready for next week. It’ll be a whole different story.”

Highlands had a good mix of running and passing. The Bluebirds ran for 173 yards total. They tried to get senior running backs Josh Watson and Griffin Urlage involved in addition to junior Nick Kendall. Watson and Urlage did not play in the scrimmage at Cincinnati St. Xavier a week ago.

“We’ll get better. We’re still figuring out the rotation,” Urlage said. “It changes day-to-day. We need to step it up a little bit and we’ll be fine.”

The Bluebirds struck again with 3:52 to go in the first. Hoge faked the sweep right and ran the option left. He found daylight for a 15-yard touchdown run. Junior kicker Jared Dougherty made his second of three extra-point attempts to put Highlands up 16-0.

Hoge scored his second touchdown with 32 seconds left in the first. He ran around left end for a 27-yard score. That put the Bluebirds up 23-0.

They held that lead until 11:58 remained in the fourth quarter. Plessinger scored from a yard out and added the two-point conversion run. He added another 1-yard score and conversion run with 2:06 left in the game.

“We just have to stuff them up front and stay contained,” said Brady Murray, Highlands senior linebacker. “That’s about it. They ran the ball just about every play.”

Campbell County tried an onside kick. But Highlands senior Grayson Heck called for a fair kick on the bounce and the Bluebirds ran out the clock.

Highlands travels to Lexington Bryan Station on Friday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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