|Bluebirds hope to rebound against Camels|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands junior Bradley Greene (86) runs away from Cooper's Chad Michels (9) after a catch in Friday's game. Highlands plays host to Campbell County on Friday at 7 p.m.|
They know Friday's loss has made many of their opponents smile.
Thus, the Highlands Bluebirds football team has been working to regain the swagger that has helped them to a record of 113-8 the past eight-plus seasons with seven state championships and a runner-up finish. The season-opening 37-13 to the host Cooper Jaguars marked just the third time a Kentucky team has beaten Highlands during that time. It also marked the first time Highlands lost a season-opener since 2002.
The next opponent is more than hungry to beat the Bluebirds. The in-county rival Campbell County Camels will also venture to Fort Thomas coming off a loss in the season-opener for a 7 p.m. contest at David Cecil Memorial Stadium. The Camels fell 24-21 to visiting East Central (Indiana) Friday. Campbell County made things interesting with two fourth-quarter touchdowns after trailing 24-7, but could not pull off the win.
"We're not worried about mystique. We're not worried about re-establishing things," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "We're getting ready for a game. They're excited about it. They showed up (Monday) like they have every day since January and had a great day."
Two years ago after Highlands handled Campbell County, 50-8 in Fort Thomas, Campbell County Head Coach and former Highlands standout running back Stephen Lickert said the Camels would continue to play the Bluebirds and hopefully beat them sometime. Highlands leads the overall series, 52-9 including the two wins the last two years. The last time Campbell County beat Highlands came in 1991, 12-6.
"Highlands is Highlands," Lickert said. "We don't care about their record or what happened last week. We are going to play against the guys in the uniforms and not worry about the name written on the front of the jersey. Our guys are going to be fired up too, but being fired up isn't going to fix the mistakes we made last week. We need to learn from last week, fix our mistakes, prepare well and execute our systems."
Highlands put up just 270 yards of total offense in the loss at Cooper in its spread offense after averaging about 437 per game last year. The quarterbacks completed just 11-of-28 passes for 169 yards and four interceptions. TJ Sipple had four catches for 30 yards to lead the Bluebirds. Highlands also ran for just 101 yards total led by Nick Kendall's 42 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
"We're a little smaller than we've been the past few years," said Carson Haas, Highlands senior offensive lineman. "We're trying to run faster and be more agile. We work on ways to block better. Last week, we weren't blocking as well as we could have."
But Hergott hit some long passes down the field. He hit Eric Miller for a 45-yard strike in the first half and Bradley Greene for a 65-yard pass in the second half.
"We watch the film with every guy at every position from the varsity and JV games," Weinrich said. "We try to re-evaluate everybody all the time trying to figure out what every guy does well and make sure we do our best to put every guy in position to be successful for themselves and for the team."
The biggest issue the Bluebirds had on offense came on third down. Highlands converted just 1-of-13 in those situations and 2-of-6 on fourth down. The Bluebirds also allowed three quarterback sacks for a loss of 19 yards.
Highlands will face a 3-3 Campbell County stack defense that gave up 286 out of 355 yards total to East Central. Trojan quarterback Luke Patton ran for 119 yards on 17 carries and running back Doug Rosemeyer had 20 touches for 116 yards.
"EC used a lot of overbalanced sets and were able to get us out of alignment and outnumber us at the point of attack," Lickert said. "We had nine new defensive starters and with one scrimmage film that didn't show us any of those things, it was difficult to get the adjustments that were being made on the sidelines into action. This week will get easier as we get more experienced each week. We think we can be really, really good on defense. We just need to get lined up and tackle better."
The Highlands 3-4 defense gave up 428 yards against Cooper including 242 on the ground. Torey Cordell-Armstrong led Cooper with 27 carries for 178 yards and three touchdowns. Highlands did a allow a few big plays for touchdowns through the air.
"It's all about communication and doing your job," said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. "That's basically what we've been preaching. I'm not going to take credit away from Cooper because they did a great job. We were in position to make plays. They do a good job taking advantage of mistakes. We have to work hard to eliminate mistakes. Overall, we didn't play terrible. But when you give up three scores like that, it's not a good game."
The Bluebirds did record three quarterback sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss. Senior linebacker Joe Dressman had 1.5 tackles for a loss and junior linebacker Dalton Cornett had one. Robinson and linebackers Ben Ziegler and Keaton Huddleston had one-half of a tackle for a loss each.
Campbell County also runs the shotgun spread. The Camels relied a lot on quarterback Carson Plessinger running the ball last year. He had eight carries for 20 yards and two touchdowns against East Central. As a team, the Camels rushed the ball 15 times for 25 yards.
Campbell County had to go to the air trailing most of the game. Plessinger completed 12-of-22 passes for 171 yards, a touchdown and one interception. Junior Tyler Bryson led Campbell County with four catches for 49 yards and sophomore Jack Comer had three catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. The Camel offensive line is led by senior Michael Trout.
"We have to go out and do our job," Ziegler said. "It's not like we lost one game so that makes us beatable. We're still a tough team to beat. We're sharpening it up from last weekend. If we fill in our gaps and don't let anyone behind us, no one should be able to score on us. We watch our keys. That tells us where the ball is going."
Lickert has coached against his alma mater four times going 0-4. Highlands also faced Covington Holmes when he was the head coach there in 2007 and 2008 winning those games 52-14 and 70-6 respectively.