Saturday, November 1, 2014

Who can the injured Bluebirds look up to as an example?

Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands senior defensive lineman Daniel Kremer (22) pursues Warren Central running back Colin Burnham (44) on Friday. The Bluebirds recorded their second shutout of the season with the win.

Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands senior offensive lineman Lou Bunning (50) gets out front for running back Griffin Urlage (behind). The Bluebirds (8-2) concluded the regular season with a 43-0 shutout on Friday.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

If Friday’s 43-0 domination of host Warren Central served as a clear indication, the Highlands Bluebirds football team (8-2 overall) is out to win one for their injured teammates.

Three Highlands seniors are out for the season in running back Josh Watson, defensive back Andrew Abner and tight end Jack Telek with torn anterior cruciated ligaments. Abner and Watson injured their legs in the loss against Cincinnati Elder and Telek hurt his in the scrimmage against Louisville Trinity in August. Telek has said there is a chance he may return in the playoffs. They still made the trip to Bowling Green to support their teammates.

“These guys have played together since they were in elementary school,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. “So when one guy goes down, other guys have to step up. They feel bad for those guys. But at the same time, it was an opportunity for the other guys.”

Two of the main guys that had not played on varsity until Friday were sophomore Bradley Greene and junior Taylor Perez. The staff converted them from wide receivers to defensive back to fill in on an injured backfield. In addition to Abner, senior James Hinkel and junior Austin Beal did not play.

The Bluebirds can look to the 2006 state championship Ladybird soccer team as an example of a team rallying around a teammate to win a state championship. Senior standout and 2007 Highlands graduate Alicia Browning tore her right ACL late in the championship game against Louisville Sacred Heart.

“For the injured guys, my number one take-home by far is that it is totally surmountable,” Browning said. “With good training, medical advice and doing everything the doctor tells you, you will be back on your feet in six months. For the teammates, rally around your teammates because there’s nothing more they want than to be out there on that field playing.”

Highlands scored the game-winning goal a few minutes later with 1:01 remaining. Stephanie Newman-Durbin tracked down a ball near the line and crossed it to Amber Barth-Wells to give Highlands its second straight championship.

“At that point (of the injury), we knew we had to win the game for (Browning),” said Megan Leahy, former Highlands teammate. “She was our rock in the middle of the field who always gave our team 110 percent every game. We had no option but to win it for her, especially being our senior year.”

Browning admitted nervousness in telling then University of Kentucky Head Coach Warren Lipka the news. But Lipka supported her and her rehab got her in good shape the following fall in Lexington. Browning also advises people with injuries to keep an eye on the legs because she’s had to work through some things since the injury first occurred.

Abner and Watson’s older sisters suffered similar injuries when they played at Highlands. Ava Abner, a 2013 Highlands graduate and current Arkansas State soccer player, tore her ACL as a junior during the 2011-12 basketball campaign when Sydney Moss undercut her going for a loose ball. Sydney Watson, a 2012 Highlands graduate, tore her ACL as a junior during the 2010 volleyball season and could not play basketball until the 2011 basketball postseason.

“I’ve told him it’s just a minor setback,” Sydney Waton said. “It sucks that it had to happen three times to him, especially on his Senior Night. But he has to stay strong and believe that he will be healthy once again in the end. He’s a smart kid. I just tell him that he has to keep his head up and stay positive.”

Junior Varsity, Freshmen seasons commence:

The Highlands junior varsity and freshmen teams just completed their seasons. The junior varsity finished 1-5 following a 56-0 loss at Cincinnati Elder on Saturday and the freshmen finished 3-5 following a narrow 34-33 loss to Dixie Heights on Thursday.

Those records may have some concerned. But the underclassmen hope to prove people wrong in future seasons.

“I think that all boils down to how much work we put in the offseason and how much we’re willing to get better,” said Austin Hergott, Highlands senior quarterback. “It’s so different going from freshman year to sophomore year to junior year. It’s a new intensity. It’s a lot more competitive.”

First-round opponent questions:

The Ashland Daily Independent  is saying the Bluebirds will be taking on the Rowan County Vikings (2-8) in the first round of the 4A playoffs next week. Highlands had faced Boyd County in the previous three years in that round.

However, Weinrich said the Bluebirds will face the Boyd County Lions (2-8) for the fourth straight year. The previous three first-round playoff meetings are the only times they've played in school history.

Boyd County, Greenup County and Rowan County all finished 1-3 in District 8-4A action tied for third. Greenup County took the third seed because of its 4-6 record while both Boyd County and Rowan County finished 2-8. Rowan County beat Montgomery County (2-8) on Friday, 60-54 and Boyd County lost to Tolsia (West Virginia), 7-6.

Rowan County beat Montgomery County and Greenup County. Those teams finished a combined 6-14. Boyd County defeated Rowan County and South Point (Ohio). South Point and Rowan County finished a combined 4-16.

Highlands is 2-0 against Rowan County all-time. Those two meetings came in the first round of the Class AAA 1996 and 1997 playoffs. Highlands won those games by 69-28 and 40-0 scores respectively.

Class 4A report:

Johnson Central (10-0) finished as the class’ lone undefeated team with a 35-0 win over defending Class 3A champion Belfry on Friday in Paintsville. The Golden Eagles play host to winless Harrison County on Friday then could see either Covington Catholic (6-4) or Greenup County (4-6) in the second round.

State contenders Lexington Catholic (7-3) and Boyle County (9-1) continued to roll on Friday. The Knights won their sixth straight with a 36-14 win at Boone County on Friday and the Rebels took down Madison Southern, 43-7.

The Owensboro Red Devils (8-2) looked like the team to beat in the western half of the bracket. They lost 44-18 at Henderson County on Friday.

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