Saturday, August 23, 2014

Highlands improves in second scrimmage; NC-Ashland game rained out

Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands senior defensive lineman D.J. Mills (42) pursues Cincinnati St. Xavier running back Sean Prophit (32) in Friday's scrimmage. 
Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands junior defensive back Austin Beal (right) steps in front of Cincinnati St. Xavier junior wide receiver Andrew Homer (left) and returns the interception 100 yards for a touchdown in Friday's scrimmage.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

CINCINNATI – The Highlands Bluebirds football team showed major improvement in the “glorified practice” Friday at Cincinnati St. Xavier’s Ballaban Field.

The varsity played for 2.5 quarters and won 15-10. The junior varsity played the last 1.5 of the four quarters and was outscored 20-0 making the final score 30-15 in favor of St. Xavier.

This marked the second of two scrimmages for Highlands. The Bluebirds did not have a game scheduled for the zero week so they played two this year.

The Bluebirds moved the ball better this week. They passed for 217 yards and rushed for 21.

“There were some things we worked on last week and there were some things we wanted to work on this week,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. “Now we have to start figuring out what we want to do in games against certain teams. We have to pick out what we do best. We’re going to do what we have to do to win games.”

The Bombers had problems defending senior wide receiver Alex Veneman. Quarterback Beau Hoge completed 12-of-16 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Veneman had seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Highlands is generally a balanced team. But the Bluebirds played without seniors Griffin Urlage and Josh Watson so they gave junior Nick Kendall a few carries. Watson and Urlage hope to return Friday in addition to senior defensive back James Hinkel. Hinkel was out with a concussion in the scrimmage.

“We were missing some guys so we were cautious with our backs,” Weinrich said. “We worked on othter things. We didn’t run the ball as much as we’d have liked to run.”

St. Xavier rushed for 176 yards and passed for 132 for 308 yards. The Bombers played without their top returning running back in Ben Glines. The Bluebirds played a lot better defensively compared to the scrimmage against Louisville Trinity. Senior linebacker Patrick Schoepf combined with junior Tyler Robinson to record a 13-yard sack in the second quarter and Schoepf had a fumble recovery later in the quarter.

“It’s just a matter of getting out and playing,” said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. “Our whole goal was to line up, play and have fun. We got after it and all we’re trying to do is get better. We felt like we got better.”

Junior defensive back Austin Beal made a key defensive play later in the second quarter. He returned an interception back 100 yards for a touchdown when the Bombers drove inside the Highlands 10. That cut the lead to 10-9 St. Xavier.

“Coach (Jones) told me to play over the top,” Beal said. “I knew it was coming to (Bomber wide receiver Andrew Homer). When I saw it come over, I got in front of it and knew I had to get something going for the team. I took it to the house. It got us pumped up. We got back into rhythm and started going from there.”

St. Xavier converted several third downs on the opening drive and Sean Prophit scored from four yards out. Myles Homan hit the extra-point to put the Bombers up 7-0.

The Bluebirds came back and drove down the field. Eric Miller hit a 21-yard field goal with 8:39 remaining to trim the margin to 7-3.

Highlands took the lead with 9:19 left in the third quarter. Hoge completed a 7-yard touchdown strike to Veneman. The Bluebird offensive line protected better in the game.

“We lost (12) seniors last year (on the offensive line),” said Kyle Finfrock, Highlands sophomore offensive lineman. “We’re trying to regroup and do the best we can. I think we need to get the steps down and we’ll be good.”

Temperatures hit 82 degrees during the game. But the Bluebirds have always taken care of the hydration aspect of football.

“Coach Weinrich preaches it every day,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter how hot it is. Sometimes you get dehydrated when it is cold outside because you don’t think about drinking water. We constantly say you have to be drinking so many ounces per day. If you’re constantly hydrating yourself, you generally don’t have those problems.”

Highlands heads south Friday to take on the Campbell County Camels (1-0). Game time is 7 p.m.

NewCath-Ashland game cancelled:

Newport Central Catholic traveled to Ashland to open the season Friday and ran into a torrential downpour. That flooded Ashland’s recently renovated Putnam Stadium.

Ashland offered NewCath several options. But NewCath Head Coach Dan Wagner said things did not work out to reschedule the game.

The Thoroughbreds open the season Friday at Cooper. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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