Saturday, November 1, 2014

How sharp were the Bluebirds on Friday?


Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands sophomore running back Jared Pulsfort (91) runs behind Lou Bunning (50) and Matt Gall (71) for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands seniors Patrick Schoepf (33) and D.J. Mills (on ground) put pressure on Warren Central quarterback Chance Shanklin in Friday's game in Bowling Green. The Bluebirds won 43-0.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

BOWLING GREEN – Their focus looked so sharp on Friday that if it were a laser, it would burn through steel.

The Highlands Bluebirds football team (8-2) ventured south and put together its most complete game of the year dominating the host Warren Central Dragons, 43-0. The Bluebirds recorded their second shutout of the year making sure Warren Central did not have any hopes of winning late in the game like they did in last year’s 71-69 Highlands shutout win in Fort Thomas.

Highlands also avoided its first two-game losing streak since 2006. The Bluebirds moved to 8-0 against Kentucky teams dominating from the opening kickoff.

The Bluebirds overcame some adversity to win the game. Game time temperatures were 41 degrees and the strong wind did not help things.

The game also did not start until 8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time because the team arrived late. The team ventured down Interstate-75 to Lexington and took the Bluegrass Parkway over to Interstate-65 near Elizabethtown then went south. Traffic around Louisville and south also did not help the situation.

“We got out of school late,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. “We were running behind schedule. We were on the bus when we normally would be on the field warming up so we told them we could either let this disrupt us or we can focus in even sharper than we normally do. They came out and didn’t miss a beat.”

Highlands outgained Warren Central, 372-248 in total offense. The Bluebirds ran for 164 yards and passed for 218 in another balanced night. Defensively, they held the Dragons to 98 yards rushing and 150 passing.

“A lot of things are a lot easier if you just communicate and the guys were able to run around, have fun and get to the ball,” said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. “I give all the credit to the inside linebackers, the defensive line getting pressure. We covered well so I was really happy with the overall play.”

The Bluebirds moved up and down the field with ease offensively in its spread formation, especially in the first half when Highlands hit the running clock. Quarterback Beau Hoge completed a lot of short to medium passes to wide receivers like Alex Veneman, Eric Miller and Mitch Cain. That opened up the running lanes for Nick Kendall and Griffin Urlage and set up a few deep passes. The wind limited the deep passing game.

“We tried to keep them off-balance a little bit,” Weinrich said. “We were trying to take advantage of a couple things we saw on film. The guys executed really well. They played hard.”

The Highlands offensive line also had another big game. The Bluebirds saw Urlange run for 86 yards on two carries and two touchdowns and Kendall go for 80 yards on four carries. Warren Central had problems punting so Highlands took advantage of short field position all game.

“We were just geared toward shutting down their defense,” said Carson Haas, Highlands junior offensive lineman. “They came out in a little different front than we were expecting from what we prepared for the week (leading up to the game). We had to relearn what we were preparing for last week. We came out and we did great.”

Hoge completed 14-of-20 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. Alex Veneman again led the Bluebirds with seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. His go route to the left side of the end zone gave the Bluebirds the only touchdown they needed to win the game with 7:16 left in the first quarter. Kicker Jared Dougherty then made the first of five extra-point attempts.

Defensively, Highlands contained senior running back Colin Burnham and wide receiver Jensen Feggins. Burnham had 84 yards on 12 carries as the Highlands front seven won the line of scrimmage.

Former Highlands wide receiver Feggins had 10 catches for 74 yards. Defensive backs like Grayson Heck and Bradley Greene stayed 10 yards off him to take away the deep pass and the team gang tackled him when he caught the ball on short routes.

“I have to give a lot of credit to our upperclassmen,” Greene said. “They helped me a lot out there talking and communicating. That’s a big thing. We were keying on (Feggins) all night. I think we did a good job sticking with him. We had to have good technique and let everything take care of itself.”

The Bluebirds intercepted two Chance Shanklin passes. Heck and Greene had them.

Urlage added two touchdown runs in the first quarter. The first one came with 4:55 left from a yard out and the second on a 19-yard run with 3:44 left in the first. The second score gave Highlands a 21-0 lead.

Hoge then scored his two rushing touchdowns in the second quarter. The first came from a yard out with 11:56 left in the first on a counter then the second with 4:06 left in the half.

Jared Pulsfort scored the game's lone touchdown of the second half. It came on a 1-yard run with 10:29 left in the game.

The Bluebirds open the 4A playoffs on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Fort Thomas. The opponent will again be the Boyd County Lions (2-8).

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