Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bluebirds Take Wind Out of Blue Tornado



Allen Ramsey Photo. Paducah Tilghman junior quarterback Jessie Dunigan (12) feels the heat from Highlands defenders Daniel Kremer (behind), Brady Murray (18) and Tyler Robinson (54). Kremer recorded two sacks as Highlands won 49-17.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The list of disadvantages the visitors had coming into the game was not a secret.

The Paducah Tilghman Blue Tornado football team still owns the fourth-most wins all-time in Kentucky history with 751. That’s behind only the host Highlands Bluebirds (859-227-26 overall in their 100th season), Louisville Male (837) and arch-rival Mayfield (823).

But the Blue Tornado (1-4) are in a restructuring season under former Warren Central Head Coach Mike Rogers. The numbers are not where the staff would like to be from a depth standpoint so they have players going both directions. Add to that a sweltering day at Cecil Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon, an overnight stay after a 5.5-hour bus trip on Friday and they faced a team with no players going both directions so it made for a long day.

The Bluebirds handled the Blue Tornado, 49-17 to move to 4-0 and increase their all-time lead to 6-1 in the series as a non-surprising result. The teams had not played at either home field until last year. Highlands beat Paducah Tilghman in 1989 and 1992 for the two Class 3A state championships when Tom Duffy was head coach.

Highlands outgained Paducah Tilghman, 467-298 in total offense. The Blue Tornado had no answer for the balanced and improving Bluebird offense.

“The guys on both sides of the ball are starting to get the hang of what we’re doing,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. “They’re getting some experience. The execution was pretty high (Saturday), which is what you want it to be in game four. We have to keep getting better.”

Bluebird senior quarterback Beau Hoge showed his versatility once again completing 23-of-36 passes for 352 yards and rushing for 75 on five carries and two touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Alex Veneman torched the Paducah Tilghman secondary with eight catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

“The (offensive) line is blocking well,” said Nick Kendall, Highlands junior running back. “Beau (Hoge) is having all kinds of time. He throws awesome passes. The running backs are also running and blocking well.”

A couple other Highlands wide receivers had big games as the Blue Tornado defense focused on stopping the Bluebird running game. Mitch Cain had five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown and Chandler New had four catches for 71 yards. Junior Eric Miller added two catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.

The Blue Tornado have improved since the season-opening 49-21 loss to McCracken County. Junior quarterback Jessie Dunigan completed 13-of-19 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. Seven of those passes went to junior Sayveon McEwen for 128 yards and a touchdown.

The Blue Tornado rushed for 125 yards on 38 carries out of their traditional Wing-T offense. Senior Tyler Scarbrough led the way with 10 carries for 46 yards.
“They cut on us a lot more,” said Drew Bravard, Highlands sophomore defensive lineman. “It’s hard to deal with the cutting. Coach (Shelby Jones) emphasized putting our hands on players. That way we can shove them to the ground instead of them taking out our knees.”

The Bluebirds contained senior tailback D.J. Sherrill defensively and senior defensive lineman Daniel Kremer had a couple sacks on Dunigan. The Paducah Tilghman running backs had some first-down runs. But they did not go for long gains.

“Defensively, that’s kind of our thing. You take away the big play and stay patient,” Weinrich said. “We gave up some drives. But at the end of the day, we didn’t give up many points. That’s our ultimate goal.”

Highlands moved down the field on its first possession. Hoge hit Veneman for a 28-yard catch and run on the right sideline and Hoge scrambled for 18 more. Hoge swept left and scored from three yards out on third down with 6:49 left in the first quarter and Jared Daugherty hit the extra-point.

The Bluebirds scored again three and a half minutes later. Josh Watson broke free for a 15-yard score on fourth down to put Highlands up 13-0 after the conversion run failed.

The Blue Tornado tried to take time off the clock with long and sustained drives. They had a touchdown pass negated by a penalty. But Logan Besaw hit a 31-yard field goal with 7:09 left in the half. Highlands led 13-3 at that point.

The Bluebirds moved the ball down the field and scored with 4:31 left in the half. Hoge found Cain for a 14-yard score and Highlands led 20-3.

Highlands built even more distance from Paducah Tilghman with 1:19 left in the game. Hoge found Veneman on the left side of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Daugherty’s extra-point attempt put the Bluebirds up 28-3 at halftime.

The Bluebirds went for the knockout punch to open the second half. Miller caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from Hoge to increase the Highlands lead to 35-3 just 2:29 into the half.

The Blue Tornado scored their first touchdown with 4:40 left in the third quarter. Dunigan scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper.

Ben Ziegler set up another Highlands score just nine seconds into the fourth quarter. He recovered a Paducah Tilghman fumble at the Blue Tornado 42. Just more than a minute later, Hoge found Veneman for a 12-yard touchdown. That gave the Bluebirds a 42-10 advantage.

Hoge enforced the running clock with another touchdown run with 5:45 left in the game. He scored on a six-yard run to put the Bluebirds up 49-10.

Paducah Tilghman made the game closer with 2:40 left. Dunigan hit McEwen for an 81-yard touchdown.

Highlands has six days to prepare for arch-rival Covington Catholic (3-1). Game time is 7 p.m. Friday in Fort Thomas.

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