Thursday, October 2, 2014

What has been Highlands' recent average margin of victory against Harrison County?

Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands' Jacob Noe (right) and James Hinkel (1) wrap up Covington Catholic running back Ben Darlington (31) while Tyler Robinson (54) gets into position.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The usually-tough week is behind them with another victory.

The undefeated Highlands Bluebirds football team (5-0) can now focus on another District 7-4A opponent this week after throttling Covington Catholic, 42-7 on Friday. The Blue and White travel to Cynthiana on Friday to face the winless Harrison County Thorobreds (0-6) at 7 p.m.

Many who have been around or seen the Bluebirds play throughout the years know what this has meant in the past. Since 2006, Highlands has gone 24-0 against district opponents in the regular season. The average margin of victory for the Bluebirds against non-Covington Catholic opponents has been just less than 52 points during that time. That margin including CovCath is just less than 43 points.

“The big week is not over,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. “Every week is the big week. (Tuesday) was a great practice. We came out and got after it. We ran hard and executed. If we don’t get better this week, we’re going to be behind.”

Highlands has especially put up a lot of points on the Thorobreds. The Bluebirds have scored the most points on Harrison County in school history three straight years in 68-0, 69-10 and 77-0 victories. Highlands’ average margin of victory against Harrison County has been 68 points in those three games.

While the many opponents have feared the Bluebirds and their mystique, they know they have to go down there and treat the Thorobreds as if they are not going to do that. But Highlands has generally gone into games like this and played its game making sure this does not become an issue.

Attrition definitely favors Highlands in this contest. The Bluebirds have 98 players between grades 10-12 on the roster with no one going both directions while the Thorobreds have 46 players on the roster in all four grades and players going both ways.

The stats do more than share the mismatch. The Bluebirds are averaging 42 points per contest and allowing just 17.6 while the Thorobreds  are averaging just more than eight points a contest and are allowing just less than 44.

Harrison County has been shut out twice. The most points the Thorobreds have scored in a contest is 18 points in losses at Gallatin County and against Williamsburg on Friday in a 48-18 loss. The 28-18 defeat at Gallatin County is the closest they’ve come to tasting victory.

Harrison County has rushed for just 345 yards and passed for 323 averaging just more than 111 yards of offense per game. The Thorobreds have had problems controlling the line of scrimmage in multiple sets like the I-formation and split backfields.

That heavily favors the Bluebird 3-4 defense that is allowing an average of 318 yards per game. Highlands has 25 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, three interceptions and three recovered fumbles. Junior defensive lineman Tyler Robinson leads the Bluebirds with four tackles for a loss and two sacks and senior linebacker Brady Murray has 3.5 tackles for a loss, a sack and an interception. Senior linebacker Jacob Noe and senior defensive lineman Daniel Kremer also have two quarterback sacks each.

“We always focus on ourselves trying to get better,” said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. “There is obviously still a lot of things we need to work on. One of the things we did really well on Friday was running around intensely for four quarters. We’re going to try to build on that.”

In the turnover department, Highlands senior defensive back Andrew Abner has a fumble recovery and interception for Highlands with James Hinkle also recording an interception. Ben Ziegler and senior linebacker Patrick Schoepf also have fumble recoveries.

The Highlands defensive line saw senior D.J. Mills return against Covington Catholic after he’d been out with a left hand injury since the season-opener at Campbell County. Mills recorded a safety against the Camels sacking quarterback Carson Plessinger in the end zone.

“We’re looking to do the things we do every single game,” said Ben Ellison, Highlands senior linebacker. “We’re just really looking to get after it. With any chance we get, we’re going to rotate in a lot of guys, get some fresh faces in there and get a feel for our defense.”

Senior Mark Taylor and sophomore Malcolm Walker have seen time at quarterback. Walker has completed 8-of-31 passes for 111 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Taylor has completed 14-of-39 passes for 212 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Harrison County has seen 13 different players rush the ball. Junior Christian Sinckler leads the way with 17 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown. Junior Jovon Williams leads the Thorobreds with six catches for 27 yards and junior Brian Davis has five catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns.

The Bluebirds have consistently feasted on the Thorobred secondary in the last couple years. They average 230.8 yards rushing and 257.6 passing a game.

The Thorobred defense is ripe for more of that this year unless the Bluebirds call more running plays unlike the past two years. Teams have run for 1,301 yards and passed for 1,010 against them for an average of just more than 385 yards per contest.

Senior quarterback Beau Hoge has 325 yards rushing on 39 carries with 10 touchdowns for an average of 8.3 per touch.

Senior Griffin Urlage leads with Bluebirds with 371 yards rushing on 65 carries. But teammates Josh Watson and Nick Kendall have rushed for 248 and 143 yards respectively.

The Bluebirds have seen 11 players catch passes. Senior Alex Veneman leads the way with 26 catches for 483 yards and eight touchcowns. Junior Mitch Cain has 16 catches for 238 yards and two scores with senior Cashel Coughlin hauling in 11 for 117 yards.

Highlands hopes to do better in the Red Zone this week. The Bluebirds did not score points on three trips there against the Colonels. They have been there 27 times scoring touchdowns on 20 of those trips for 74 percent.

They have not missed an extra-point kick this year. Junior kicker Jared Dougherty has made all 26 tries.

Harrison County does not have anyone with double-digit tackles in its 4-3 defense. Junior defensive lineman Caleb Marshall leads the way with nine.

The Bluebirds have never lost to the Thorobreds. They have won all eight meetings between the two schools.

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