Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bluebird skid hits three straight for first time since 1976

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior wide receiver Ryan Conley (99) goes out for a pass in Friday's game against Louisville St. Xavier. 
For most of the season, it has been a nightmare.

That bad dream continued Friday for the Highlands Bluebirds football team in a 37-6 loss to the Louisville St. Xavier Tigers in a battle of tradition-rich teams. The 23-time state champion Bluebirds and 12-time state champion Tigers have used their depth to wear down opponents historically.


The Tigers (3-1) did that to the Bluebirds (1-4) at David Cecil Memorial Stadium. St. Xavier outgained Highlands, 419-174 in total offense including 293-55 in the first half.

As a result, Highlands did not avoid its first three-game losing streak since 1976 nor its first 1-4 start since 1939. The 1939 Highlands squad finished 2-8 opening the season with a win over Carrollton and ending it with a win over Dixie Heights.

Both teams strive for balance in their spread offenses. The Tigers rushed for 251 yards total and passed for 168 and held the Bluebirds to 35 yards rushing and 139 passing. Both teams used 3-4 defensive schemes.

The Tigers ran a number of jet sweeps and dives to keep the Bluebird defense off-balance. Junior quarterback Desmond Ridder also rolled out off play-action passes. Sam Taylor ran for 58 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown and Chase Rowan rushed for 78 on nine carries.

Ridder ended up completing 12-of-18 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns. He left in the second half of the loss to Louisville Central last week because of an injury, but showed no signs of it Friday. Trey Clements led St. Xavier with five catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns with Blake Roshkowski grabbing two passes for 43 yards and a score.

The Tigers focused on the Bluebird running game and forced Highlands to beat them throwing the ball like opponents have done all year. Senior quarterback Austin Hergott completed 18-of-30 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Griffin Huber led Highlands with four catches for 54 yards and Nick Kendall had four for 38 yards.

St. Xavier took the opening kickoff and drove the 80 yards for a quick touchdown. Ridder faked the sweep and ran up the middle for a 9-yard touchdown with 9:33 left in the first quarter. The snap was high on the extra-point try leaving the score 6-0 Tigers.

But after the Bluebird defense forced the with Tigers to punt, Ridder found Clements for a 20-yard touchdown with 5:38 left in the first quarter. Following an interception, Ridder rolled right and found Roshkowski for a 30-yard score to put St. Xavier up 20-0 with 4:39 left in the quarter.

The Tigers added 10 points in the second quarter to build a 30-0 halftime lead. Taylor scored from four yards out five seconds into the quarter before Samuel McDonogh hit a 20-yard field goal with 1:49 left in the half.

St. Xavier forced the running clock with 8:28 left in the third quarter. Ridder completed a 10-yard pass to Clements. It marked the second time this season an opponent hit the running clock on the Bluebirds.

The Bluebirds averted their first shutout since 2005 in the fourth quarter. Hergott found Kendall for a 9-yard score with 11:48 left in the game.

Highlands travels to Independence on Friday at 7 p.m. to face undefeated Simon Kenton (5-0).

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