Thursday, October 16, 2014

Who is the most common opponent in Highlands school history?

Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands linebacker Brady Murray (back) makes a tackle in Saturday's game. The Bluebirds travel to Covington Holmes on Friday.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

High school football fans in Northern Kentucky know this line real well.

The Highlands Bluebirds own a perfect 27-0 mark against district opponents since 2007. That includes a 5-0 mark against Friday’s opponent in the Covington Holmes Bulldogs. Game time is 7 p.m. in Covington.

Holmes also happens to be the most common opponent in school history for Highlands. The Bluebirds are 50-20-2 against the Bulldogs. They have not lost to the Bulldogs since 1995.

A win for Highlands would wrap up an 18th district championship in the last 19 years. The Bluebirds (6-1 overall, 2-0 in District 7-4A action) also want to bounce back from Saturday’s 38-34 loss to Miami (Fla.) Christopher Columbus.

“Really, there are three games in a season that matter and this is one of them,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. “That gives us home field in at least the first two rounds (of the playoffs). That’s huge.”

Holmes is struggling again this year at 2-5 and 1-0. The Bulldogs snapped a five-game losing streak with a 12-6 win at Harrison County on Friday.

The Bluebirds will play on a grass field for the second time this season. The other came at Harrison County. Grass fields pose challenges after it rains.

“You can’t really simulate that other than playing on it,” said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. “We work on when you slow down, you get your feet moving faster. What we teach is actually really beneficial for when you have to be on sloppy fields.”

The Highlands spread offense has torched the Holmes secondary in recent seasons. The Bluebirds average 41.4 points and 455.4 yards per game.

Bluebird senior quarterback Beau Hoge is questionable for Friday’s game with a foot injury. He has completed 121-of-184 passes for 1,857 yards, 22 touchdowns and three interceptions. Senior wide receiver Alex Veneman has 42 catches for 787 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Griffin Urlage leads the Bluebirds rushing the ball 69 times for 385 yards and two touchdowns. Hoge has 342 yards on 46 carries for 11 touchdowns.

Highlands had been clicking offensively behind an improving offensive line. The starters are setting good examples for the younger linemen.

“We’ve been learning what you have to do to get the job done and try to keep up the tradition,” said Michael Davidson, Highlands sophomore offensive lineman. “We try to play until the whistle blows. If you block your guy down to the ground, you go downfield and block the next guy. That’s pretty much what they teach us to do.”

Holmes runs a 3-3 stack defense that Highlands has seen a couple times this year. The Bluebirds make things difficult on opposing defenses with their versatility.

“They run around and get a lot of guys to the ball,” Weinrich said. “We’ll probably have some sloppy conditions Friday so ball security is a big point of emphasis this week.”

Defensively, Highlands employs a 3-4 defense. The Bluebirds hope to line up better in this game. Junior Tyler Robinson leads Highlands with six tackles for a loss. Defensive back James Hinkel has a team-high two interceptions and senior linebacker Patrick Schoepf has three fumble recoveries.

“We’ll line up and do our job,” Jones said. “That’s what we’ll continue to get better at. We’re finding guys who will step in, play fast and get to the ball. That’s what defense is.”

Junior Desean Brumfield quarterbacks the Holmes spread offense. The leading running backs have been Andrew Arnold and Delijah Ross-Tyus. The top wide receivers have been Arnold and Fred Vickers.

“You have to stick with (opposing wide receivers) and make sure you don’t give up anything deep,” said Thomas Wood, Highlands junior defensive back. “You employ the right techniques. We’ll play our normal defense this week. We had one safety and two defensive backs against (Christopher Columbus). We ran a 5-3 against them.”

Highlands moves up to Class 5A with Covington Catholic next year. Holmes will stay in Class 4A the next four years.

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