|Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands senior linebacker Patrick Schoepf (33) puts pressure on Covington Catholic quarterback Adam Wagner (19) in Friday's game. The Bluebirds won 42-7.|
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
The hopes of it being ‘the year that’ things turn around in this series rise like crazy just before the season begins up until the game in Park Hills.
But the Highlands Bluebirds football team turned those annual hopes into the same adjective they’ve used to handle the Covington Catholic Colonels in all 12 meetings since 2006 on Friday.
Things were not perfect. But undefeated Highlands (5-0) pulled away from CovCath (3-2) in the second half for a 42-7 victory and its third straight game enforcing the running clock. The score came one off last year’s 42-6 win over the injury-riddled Colonels in Park Hills about a year ago.
“You know the old cliché. It starts up front. Our offensive line played great,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. “They’re getting better every week at what they’re doing and the backs are getting it. The wide receivers were unselfish. After what we throw for last week (352 yards in a 49-17 win over Paducah Tilghman) they came out and blocked hard. We left some points out on the field and we’ll fix that.”
Highlands outgained CovCath, 540-362 in total offense. The Bluebird offensive line blocked so well that the Bluebirds rushed for 319 yards on 56 carries.
Highlands graduated 12 offensive linemen from last year and recently saw senior Kyler Dalton return from a foot injury. Senior Lou Bunning has helped out there playing football for the first time since his freshman year.
“Coach Weinrich had been talking all week about making the other team quit,” Bunning said. “We got up 7-0 and we said to ourselves, ‘We need to step on the gas petal and just keep running it down their throats and keep pouring it on.’ That’s what we did. Every week, we’ve been making small improvements and (Friday), it really showed. It was a real good game.”
Senior Josh Watson led Highlands with 18 carries for 107 yards and Griffin Urlage had 73 on 14 carries with Nick Kendall following with seven carries for 56 yards. Highlands quarterback Beau Hoge rushed for 47 yards on eight runs and two touchdowns. Hoge gave the Bluebirds the lead for good with a 1-yard run over right tackle with 8:08 left in the first half.
Hoge also hurt CovCath with his arm. He completed 16-of-23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Cashel Coughlin led Highlands with six catches for 51 yards and Mitch Cain had four for 76 and a score as CovCath focused on senior Alex Veneman.
“We put in a whole new offense this year and had a whole new offensive line,” Hoge said. “We’re just getting better each game. Like Coach Weinrich always tell us, we’re putting another brick in the wall so we’re building every day.”
Veneman had just one catch, but he made the most of it. He hauled in a 39-yard reception on the left side of the end zone with 4:16 left in the quarter as CovCath blew coverage. Jared Dougherty’s second of six made extra-point kicks put Highlands up 14-0.
Defensively, Highlands allowed a few big plays. CovCath quarterback Adam Wagner had a 61-yard run in the first half. That made up the majority of his 106 net yards. But he only passed for 90 yards completing 10-of-22 passes to go with two interceptions.
The Bluebirds took away the Colonels’ bread and butter of the read-option. Brady Murray and James Hinkle had interceptions and Andrew Abner recovered a CovCath fumble. Hoge threw one interception so the Bluebirds finished plus-two in the turnover battle.
“I enjoyed sitting back and watching the guys play,” said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. “They’re really the ones that came out and did what they were supposed to do. They were flying around and making plays. That’s what we asked of them.”
Highlands recorded five tackles for a loss and a sack. Highlands junior defensive lineman Tyler Robinson had a sack and combined with linebacker Patrick Schoepf for a tackle for a loss. Schoepf also had a tackle for a loss. Teammates Daniel Kremer, Luke Lindeman and Rocco Pangallo had the other three.
“We’ve been hoping for a shutout for a while. I believe the varsity got the shutout,” Robinson said. “If they don’t want to say it was a shutout, so be it. I just hope we get more games like that this season and we prove everyone wrong.”
The Bluebirds would have led by more. But they did not score any points on three trips into the red zone.
But they did put the game away in the second half scoring 14 points in each quarter. Hoge broke free for a 20-yard touchdown with 6:32 left in the third and Watson had an 11-yard run with 53 seconds left.
Hoge threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Cain with 11:41 left in the fourth quarter. The final Highlands touchdown came with 4:52 left when sophomore Grant Murray scored on a 6-yard run.
Highlands travels to Harrison County on Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.