Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bluebird Notebook: Highlands successfully defends home field

Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands quarterback Beau Hoge (7) makes a move in Friday's Class 4A state semifinal win over Lexington Catholic. Hoge ran for 137 yards, three touchdowns and passed for 206 yards in the 47-26 Bluebird win.
Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands senior linebacker Rocco Pangallo (17) pursues Lexington Catholic quarterback Reese Ryan (left) in Friday's Class 4A state semifinal win. Pangallo had two sacks as the Bluebirds moved to 15-1 in state semifinal games since 1995.
Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands senior defensive lineman Daniel Kremer (center) sacks LexCath quarterback Reese Ryan while D.J. Mills (42) closes in. Kremer and Mills had two sacks each and Mills added a fumble recovery in the 47-26 Bluebird win. The Knights had 27 rushes for a negative-46 yards with seven quarterback sacks.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The Highlands Bluebirds football team just needed to defend its home field to advance back to the Class 4A state championship game.

They did just that winning four home games on their way to the title game. The Bluebirds have won 61 straight games against Kentucky opponents dating back to 2006. The last team to beat Highlands at home was Covington Catholic back on Oct. 27, 2006, 29-27 when Kurt Bovard hauled in a last-minute touchdown pass.

They take on the Owensboro Red Devils (12-2) for the title. That marks their eighth straight appearance in a title game in the 100th season of Highlands football. The program moved to 867-229-26 all-time with the win. The win total is second only to the 891 wins of Valdosta (Ga.).

This marked the 16th appearance in 20 years in the state semifinals for the Bluebirds. The only times since 1995 that Highlands did not play in this round are 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2006.

Highlands moved to 15-1 in those semifinal contests. The Bluebirds’ lone semifinal loss under recently retired Head Coach Dale Mueller came in a 45-6 loss at Rockcastle County. That marked the first year that current Head Coach Brian Weinrich served as Defensive Coordinator.

The Bluebirds beat the same four opponents in the same rounds the last two years on their way to the title game. They’ve beaten Boyd County, Covington Catholic and Lexington Catholic in the same round four straight years.

The series against LexCath:

The Bluebirds improved to 7-1 all-time against the Knights. The only loss to Lexington Catholic came 17-0 in the 2005 regional title game. The Bluebirds have not been shut out in 131 games since then. LexCath won the 3A crown in 2005.

“It’s a big victory when they don’t score because (the Knights) are an offensive machine,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. “They always have been. I’m not sad to see them in a different class next year. It’s been four years in a row of nail-biters.”

Highlands and Lexington Catholic will be in different classes next year. The Bluebirds move up to 5A and the Knights drop to 3A.

The next opponent:

Highlands has only faced Owensboro twice in school history. The Bluebirds beat the Red Devils in the 1999 and 2000 Class 3A state championship games by 48-10 and 48-27 scores when Geno Guidugli was the quarterback.

Owensboro needed a last-minute miracle to beat North Oldham, 27-24 in the other semifinal game Friday. Red Devil quarterback Nick Locher threw a long pass down the field. It tipped off a North Oldham defender and Owensboro junior wide receiver Jahlil Barrett skill and into the hands of junior Kishawn Walker for

It was similar to the Nov, 9, 2002 last-second Miracle in the Bluegrass when Louisiana State beat Kentucky, 33-30.

The Red Devils lost the regular season finale, 44-18 at Henderson County and 42-34 against then three-time defending 5A champion Bowling Green on Sept. 12. In addition to the nail-biter Friday, Owensboro survived a close 29-28 call against Madisonville-North Hopkins.

Familiar faces in the title game:

The Bluebirds will be seeking their state-record 23rd state championship Saturday after falling a play short of it last year. The state championships take place at Feix Field, Houchens/LT Smith Stadium on Friday and Saturday. Western Kentucky University will play host to the state football championships through 2018.

But Highlands will not be the only traditional power seeking another crown. The Louisville Trinity Shamrocks (9-5) find themselves back in the 6A title game after losing to Louisville Male in the region title game last year. They will also be seeking their 23rd state championship against Dixie Heights (13-1) in the late game Saturday.

In 1A, defending champion Mayfield (13-1) will be seeking its 11th title against Williamsburg (14-0) on Saturday at 11 a.m. Central Standard Time.

In 3A, defending champion Belfry (12-2) takes on rival Louisville Central (10-4) at 11 a.m. Friday. Belfry beat Wayne County, 3-0 to win the title last year but Central had won 3A in five of the previous six years. Belfry will be seeking its fourth state title.

Christopher Columbus still alive:

The Miami (Fla.) Christopher Columbus Explorers (12-1) handed the Bluebirds one of their two losses, 38-34 on Oct. 11. The Explorers moved on to the Florida Class 8A semifinals with a 33-7 victory over Killian on Friday.

Florida has a playoff system similar to Kentucky. The only difference is the classes are divided into 16 districts and the top two teams make the playoffs because Florida has more schools.

Highlands moved to 12-0 against Kentucky teams this year. The other loss came to Cincinnati Elder. The Panthers lost 42-13 to Wayne in the first round of the Ohio Division I playoffs.

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