|Bluebirds prepared for 6A's fourth-ranked Cardinals|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior cornerback Austin Beal (27) tries to make a move in the recent win over Campbell County. The Bluebirds take on Scott County|
The Highlands Bluebirds football team (1-1) ran roughshod on the Scott County Cardinals (2-0) to the tune of 617 yards of total offense including 414 on the ground in a 60-37 non-district victory. Highlands led 47-14 at halftime. That marked the only time Scott County lost in the regular season on its way to the Class 6A state semifinals while Highlands won the Class 4A state championship.
"We schedule with a purpose," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "We try to schedule great teams that have great experience and enjoy preparing for those games. As a competitor, you get to see what you got. These guys are going against a great team in a great atmosphere. All it can do is help us."
The two state powers will tangle for the first time since then Friday in Georgetown. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Georgetown College. The Bluebirds enter the game ranked third in Class 5A and Scott County is fourth in 4A in the latest Associated Press poll.
"First and foremost, we have great respect for Highlands," said Jim McKee, Scott County veteran head coach. "They do things right and in a first class manner. We are hopeful that the game will help both programs as their respective seasons move forward."
Both teams ran the ball well in wins Friday. The Bluebirds rushed for 313 yards on 42 carries in the 38-15 win over Campbell County while the Cardinals ran for 443 in a 53-31 win over defending 5A state champion Pulaski County.
"They're really dynamic in what they do," said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. "They do a good job of getting their guys the ball in space. When you can do that, you can take advantage of mismatches. It comes down to reading your keys and playing fast. That's what it's going to come down to. That's what it's going to come down to for us."
Senior halfback Keith Guy leads the Cardinals with 27 carries for 242 yards and five touchdowns. Senior fullback Noah Hughes is second with 33 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns with junior halfback Kendrick Hamilton going for 145 yards on 10 carries and a score. Senior Dylan Smith has also rushed for more than 100 yards in two games going for 115 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns.
The Cardinals run a traditional Wing-T offensive set. Highlands senior defensive lineman Tyler Sexton said the Cardinal offensive linemen like to chop block fast on certain plays.
"Their linemen are not only big, but also fast," Sexton said. "It's different than what you normally see with big guys. (Highlands Offensive Line) Coach (Scott Turner) teaches us to shoot our hands out. We've been working on that a lot lately. If you put your hands out and he tries to chop block you, you put your hands on him and go around him to cover your gap."
Highlands forced Scott County to throw on third-and-long situations early in the win three years ago. The Cardinals start a sophomore at quarterback in Josh Davis. Davis has completed 10-of-14 passes for just 235 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
No one has more than one catch for Scott County. But senior tight end Jordan Darnell has a 71-yard touchdown catch and Guy has a 28-yard touchdown catch.
"In their two films, there isn't much they haven't done well," Jones said. "If you can force them to do things they're not used to doing, obviously that's a great advantage for you defensively. We hope to come out, trust what we're seeing in front of us, play fast and hard and find ways to get them off the field."
Highlands took the ball away from Campbell County three times in its 3-4 defense. Joe Dressman and Drew Bravard had one fumble recovery each and Austin Beal had an interception. But Dressman is out for the season with a torn ACL and LCL on the outside of his right knee.
The Bluebirds have rushed for 414 yards on 87 carries with five touchdowns. Senior Nick Kendall leads Highlands with 160 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns behind an offensive line led by seniors Bo Hebel, Evan Richardson and Carson Haas.
"Whatever we have to do, we'll do," Weinrich said. "We feel like we can be confident in either one. On Friday night, the running game was working. It wasn't that the passing game wasn't working. Why jump off one if it's working?"
But if Scott County loads up to stop the run, quarterback Austin Hergott may need to have a big game passing the ball out of its spread offense. Hergott has completed 19-of-41 passes for 280 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Senior TJ Sipple leads Highlands with seven catches for 91 yards.
"I'd like to catch a few passes myself," said Eric Miller, Highlands senior wide receiver. "We just need to get a few completed and hopefully get things going. Everyone on our team hopes to get open in one-on-one (match-ups). We hope we can Friday."
Scott County also runs a 3-4 defense. Senior inside linebacker Tyler Braxton leads the Cardinals with 11 tackles on the season.
"The offensive line looks really good," McKee said. "I would say the center (Richardson) is All-State and they all look very physical. We have to play against good quarterbacks in our district and region so playing against (Hergott) should help us prepare."
Highlands and Scott County have only met two times in school history splitting the series. Aside from three years ago, the only other time the Cardinals and Bluebirds played each other came in 1979. Scott County won that match-up 20-0.