|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior linebacker Hank Johnson (31) tackles Dixie Heights senior Keegan Barmore while several teammates close in.|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands junior Kyle Finfrock (72) congratulates Highlands senior running back Nick Kendall (8) after one of his two touchdowns while Mitch Cain (16) and Nick Veneman (92) pass by.|
But the Highlands Bluebirds football team (7-5 overall) clinched its 60th straight winning season with the 52-21 victory over the Dixie Heights Colonels in the second round of the playoffs Friday at David Cecil Memorial Stadium. The Bluebirds have won six in a row since starting the season 1-5.
"It's good for these guys once the season is over," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "But right now, all that matters is that game and now we're starting to get ready for CovCath."
Highlands last had a losing season in 1955 going 4-5-1. That marked the last of just eight losing seasons in school history.
The Bluebirds managed three other feats in the victory. The most important one was their 29th consecutive home playoff victory dating back to a 17-0 loss to the Lexington Catholic Knights in the region championship game in 2005. That also marked the last time in 144 games that Highlands has been shut out.
Highlands also won its ninth straight second-round playoff game. The Bluebirds have lost in the second round of the playoffs just twice since 1994. They came against Covington Catholic in 2001 (18-15) and 2006 (25-15).
The final one marked the 875th win in school history. The Bluebirds maintain the second-most wins in program history in the country against 234 losses and 26 ties.
Only Valdosta (Georgia) has more with 899 wins to go with 219 losses and 34 ties in program history. The Wildcats (8-3) travel north near Atlanta to battle the Grayson Rams in the second round of Georgia's largest Class 6A playoffs. Valdosta is looking to become the first program in the country to reach the 900-win plateau.
Dougherty nears 200:
Highlands senior Jared Dougherty made seven extra-point attempts in the win. His Highlands and Northern Kentucky record for most career PATs stands at 198 good for seventh in Kentucky history.
Dougherty needs just two more PATs to become the seventh kicker in Kentucky history to make 200 or more in a career. He could move into fourth-place all-time if he makes four against Covington Catholic in the region title game.
Former Hazard kicker Austin Delpont made 200 and former Louisville Trinity kicker Karl-Heinz Williams made 201. The Kentucky record is 297 held by former Scott County kicker Palmer Ward and former Lone Oak kicker Jack Coorts.
Highlands has played like a team looking to make a long playoff run in recent weeks.
The Bluebirds have hit the 50-point plateau in three of their last four games. They beat Grant County, 56-22 before beating Woodford County, 50-14 to open the playoffs last week.
The most Highlands scored in last year's 13-2 Class 4A state championship run was 49 points. They did it twice in the regular season against John Hardin and Paducah Tilghman before accomplishing the feat against Owensboro in the state championship.
Class 5A Notes:
Seven of the eight district champions made it to the region championship. The only district winner to not accomplish that feat was District 6 champion Madison Southern (5-6). Covington Catholic (5-7) ventured to Berea and handled the Eagles, 28-7 scoring twice in the fourth quarter to pull away.
The huge unknown is the District 4 champion Louisville Fern Creek Tigers (10-1). Their lone loss came 28-18 against Louisville DuPont Manual on Aug. 28. The Tigers moved down from Class 6A this year. They take on District 4 champion South Oldham (10-2) in the Region 2 championship game.
They are led by senior running back Jamison White and senior linebacker Lamarius Kinslow. White had 1,272 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns after the first round of the playoffs and Kinslow had 85 tackles.
Two pairs of 11-1 squads will face off in the Region 1 and 4 title games. Owensboro and Bowling Green will face off near the Ohio River in a regular season rematch that Bowling Green won 17-14 in Bowling Green on Sept. 11.
Pulaski County and North Laurel will face off in Somerset on Friday. The teams did not meet this year after spending the last four years in the same District 7. North Laurel moved into District 8 and won its first-ever district championship before winning two playoff games for just the second and third time in school history. The Jaguars pulled off a huge 17-7 win over Pulaski Southwestern.
The next chapter of Highlands-Covington Catholic:
For the fifth straight year, Highlands will take on Covington Catholic for the region championship.
The Bluebirds hope to make it 15 straight against the Colonels dating back to 2006. They beat CovCath, 14-10 on Oct. 17. Highlands leads the all-time series 48-17.
Highlands hopes to do what the last four teams have done in addition to the 2007, 2004, 2000, 1998, 1995, 1989 and 1982 teams did. That's beat the Colonels in both the regular season and playoff games. The Bluebirds went on to win state championships last year in addition to 2012, 2011, 2007, 2004, 2000, 1998, 1989 and 1982 while the 2013 and 1995 squads finished state runner-up.
Covington Catholic is the lone remaining team in the playoffs with a 5-7 record. But the Colonels did beat the Bluebirds in the 2001 and 1997 playoff games after losing to Highlands in the regular season.
Dixie Heights series notes:
Highlands moved to 64-8 all-time against the Colonels with its 13th straight win in the series. The Bluebirds have more wins against Dixie Heights than any opponent in school history.
This team accomplished the same feat as the Patrick Towles-led 2009 and 2010 teams. The Bluebirds beat the Colonels in both the regular season and second round of the playoffs both years on their way to state championships.
The only opponent Highlands has played more than Dixie Heights is Covington Holmes. The Bluebirds have faced the Bulldogs 73 times in school history.