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Saturday, November 8, 2014

When did Highlands hit running clock against Boyd County?

Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands senior linebacker Rocco Pangallo (17) hits Boyd County running back Christian Braly (21) in Friday's 44-7 win.
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

This one always has to come first in the playoffs every year.

But also like those years, the Highlands Bluebirds football team took nothing for granted and handled the overmatched Boyd County Lions, 44-7 on Friday at Cecil Memorial Stadium. District champion and top-seeded Highlands typically demolishes the fourth-seeded team from the other district in this round on its way to long runs in the playoffs.

“You have to come out and bring the same intensity no matter what,” said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. “We can’t have ups and downs. It has to be consistent regardless of who you play. If you stay the same, you’re actually taking a step back.”

Highlands (9-2) hit the running clock in the first quarter and let the reserves see a lot of playing time. The Bluebirds have hit the running clock seven times this season. They have outscored the Lions, 233-34 in the last four first-round meetings. The average margin of victory is just less than 50 points.

“It was not so much getting them ready for next year,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. “It was about rewarding them for practicing hard. All our guys practice come out and practice hard every day and it’s always a good thing to get them in the game.”

Highlands moved the ball up and down the field at will against an overmatched defense. The Bluebirds outgained the Lions, 365-154 in total offense led again by senior quarterback Beau Hoge. Hoge completed 10-of-16 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 43 yards on two carries.

Like many opponents, the Lions could not contain senior wide receiver Alex Veneman. Veneman had eight catches for 167 yards and three touchdowns.

The balanced Bluebirds added 153 yards rushing. Junior Nick Kendall had two rushes for 49 yards.

Defensively, Highlands had to make some adjustments as junior running back Tanner Edmonds stepped in at quarterback for injured senior Cade Isaacs. Edmonds rushed the ball 11 times for 102 yards and completed just 1-of-10 passes for 51 yards to Tyler Blevins.

“(Edmonds) is a good player,” Jones said. “They had several players out. He had to step in and did a good job running the offense there. It changed what they did a little bit. They hadn’t really run their quarterback quite as much as they did (Friday). We took some opportunities to try some different things. Overall, I’m happy with the performance.”

The Bluebird defense did not have to worry about the pass much. Players like Taylor Perez and Bradley Greene have stepped in as defensive backs for injured players like Andrew “The Cowboy” Abner and James Hinkel.

“The young guys are real quick learners,” Perez said. “We’re just going to continue to do our jobs and keep winning. You can’t focus on everyone else’s job and try to make someone else’s play. That’s the biggest thing.”

Boyd County lost two fumbles and Highlands lost one. Greene and Ben Ziegler had fumble recoveries for the Bluebirds.

The Bluebirds hit that running clock with 1:43 left in the first quarter. Hoge hit Veneman for a 32-yard touchdown pass after a few short passes.

After a number of passes, Highlands then threw in a read option. Hoge faked to Kendall going right then ran left for a 28-yard score to put the Bluebirds up 14-0 with 7:55 left in the quarter.

Hoge hit Veneman for another long 47-yard touchdown, but it was called back because of an illegal man downfield. But it did not matter as the Bluebirds ran the flea-flicker from Hoge to Veneman from 52 yards out with six minutes remaining.

Following a fumble recovery, Highlands took a 28-0 lead when Hoge hit Veneman again. This one came in the middle of the end zone on a 64-yard touchdown pass with 3:32 left in the quarter.

The Bluebirds struck again with 1:43 left in the quarter. Kendall took a handoff and found green pastures for a 44-yard touchdown run.

“Our guys executed,” Weinrich said. “We tried to take what they were giving us. When they came up, we tried to go over top. When they spread out, we tried to hit them inside with the run.”

The Lions scored their lone touchdown with 8:02 left in the second quarter. Edmonds ran it in behind center for a three-yard score. The Bluebirds led 36-7 at halftime.

Highlands scored its last touchdown with 1:27 left in the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Brady Gosney punched it in from a yard out. Sophomore running back Jared Pulsfort picked up some big yards on the drive.

“When you get older, you’ll play better teams,” Pulsfort said. “I’m just getting ready to be on the varsity level. It’s a good experience for a sophomore running back. It’s fun.”

The Bluebirds welcome Ashland Blazer (6-4) back to Fort Thomas on Friday for a third straight second-round playoff game. It starts at 7:30 p.m.

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