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Thursday, October 30, 2014

How can Highlands control Warren Central, Feggins on Friday?

Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands cornerback Austin Beal intercepts a pass against Holmes in a recent game. Beal could be matched up against old teammate Jensen Feggins on Friday at Warren Central.
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

One can either give in to the adversity or rally around teammates and conquer it.

The Highlands Bluebirds football team (7-2 overall) is known for doing the latter and it hopes to do that this week on a long road trip to end the season. Highlands fell to Cincinnati Elder, 49-35 on Friday in Fort Thomas and wants to remove that sour taste from its mouth and head into the postseason on a high note.

The Bluebirds will have to take down the Warren Central Dragons (6-3) to avoid their first two-game losing streak since 2006. They take on old classmate Jensen Feggins in the process.

Feggins transferred to Warren Central after last season because his father Howard Feggins earned the job. Last year’s Dragon Head Coach Mike Rogers took over at Paducah Tilghman in the offseason. Coach Feggins had been an assistant at Norfolk State (Virginia) but was not retained.

The Dragons enter the game off a 53-8 win over winless Logan County to finish District 2-5A action. Their three losses have come to state championship contenders. They lost 34-13 to three-time defending Class 5A champion Bowling Green on Oct. 17, 28-26 to one-loss Owensboro on Oct. 3 and 37-12 to defending 2A champion Louisville DeSales on Sept. 5.

This marks the longest road trip of the season for Highlands. The Bluebirds would have to go that far again if they play in the state championship in December. Highlands ventured 5.5 hours to Paducah Tilghman and won 42-25 last year, but did not put away the Blue Tornado until the fourth quarter.

“You have to relax. We need to find a place to stop on the way down,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. “We’ll have some movies to entertain them and stay focused on the task at hand. That’s to win the game. When the game’s over, we’ll get home and get ourselves ready for the playoffs.”

Highlands does not plan to go around Louisville to get to Bowling Green because of recent traffic congestion in the area. The Bluebirds will instead head south on Interstate-75 to Lexington and take the Bluegrass Parkway west to Interstate 65 near Elizabethtown and head south.

Warren Central looks different offensively than the team Highlands edged, 71-69 in Fort Thomas last year. The Dragons have switched from a double-slot Wing-T offense to a shotgun spread formation. They line up in twin, trips, overbalanced and double tight-end formations.

“The thing about Warren Central is (the Dragons) have a lot of guys,” said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. “It’s not just Jensen. We have to be able to stop the run. They have a guy who runs hard and is fast. But they want to get the ball to Jensen. They do it a couple different ways. We have to take some of those things away. We obviously know what Jensen can do.”

Jensen Feggins leads the Dragons with 62 catches for 736 yards and nine toucheowns. Junior Tristan Murray is second with 19 catches for 313 yards and three scores.

“We’re going to have to approach him like any other player,” said Daniel Kremer, Highlands senior defensive back. “It’s not really a big thing. We’re not going to double-cover him or anything like that.”

The Bluebird secondary has been hit hard lately. Senior defensive back Andrew “The Cowboy” Abner and senior running back Josh Watson are out for the season with torn anterior cruciated ligaments. Senior tight end Jack Telek has also been out since the Trinity scrimmage for the same reason. But Telek recently said he may still return. Senior defensive back Jamies Hinkel will also not play on Friday. Hinkel leads the team with two interceptions.

“We’ve been banged up just like every team is a little here and a little there,” Weinrich said. “That’s the part that hurts so much is to see (Watson) who’s battled back to many times. His career is over. But he’s been around all week. He’s in great spirits. He’s been an inspiration to everyone.”

But the Bluebirds have depth unlike most teams with nearly 100 players on the roster. They will utilize players like sophomore Bradley Greene and junior Taylor Perez more to make up for the injuries.

“It’s definitely been a big impact on our team,” said Austin Hergott, Highlands junior quarterback. “We added a few new formations on offense. It will give some younger guys a chance. They know what it means to play varsity. They’re going to step it up. I think we’ll be fine.”

The Dragons try to establish the run with senior Colin Burnham. They’ve rushed for 1,028 yards and passed for 1,114. Burnham has 171 carries for 820 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Highlands will try to put pressure on Warren Central junior quarterback Chance Shanklin. He has completed 110-of-196 passes for 1,460 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions.

The Bluebirds have 12 sacks on the season. Junior defensive lineman Tyler Robinson leads the way with six tackles for a loss and three sacks. Senior linebacker Patrick Schoepf has three fumble recoveries.

The Dragons also play a 3-4 defense. Malik Peele leads the way with two interceptions and Chris Amos has three fumble recoveries with Payton Donisi making 77 tackles.

“You can tell they put a lot of emphasis on their personnel on defense. They do a good job blitzing,” Weinrich said. “They have some good packages. Bowling Green didn’t get anything easy. That’s one of the game tapes we got. We have to execute the plays that are called and let the playmakers make plays.”

The Bluebirds have given opposing defenses fits all season. Quarterback Beau Hoge has completed 153-of-240 passes for 2,267 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions. Alex Veneman leads the way with 58 catches for 1,050 yards and 16 touchdowns with Griffin Urlage going for 437 yards on 82 carries and three scores. Hoge also has 407 yards rushing on 54 carries for 14 touchdowns.

Highlands will not have to travel this far during the regular season next year. The only games against teams not from the northern seven Kentucky counties on the schedule next year are against Scott County and Louisville St. Xavier.

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