|Receiving corps looks to be as deep as ever|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Trent Buchert is the leading returning senior wide receiver for the Highlands Bluebirds.|
They may not have a huge amount of experience as a group.
But the receiving corps of the Highlands Bluebirds football team hopes to be as deep as it has been this year. Highlands graduated seven wide receivers from last year's 8-6 Class 5A state semi-finalist squad in Mitch Cain, Ryan Conley, Tanner Groneck, Austin Horner, Eric Miller, Chandler New and TJ Sipple. Sipple took his talents to Mount St. Joseph across the Ohio River in Cincinnati and Cain signed with Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.
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The receivers with the most experience coming back are senior Trent Buchert and juniors Brayden Posey and Griffin Huber. Huber is the leading returning receiver with 14 catches for 203 yards and a touchdown in the first round of the playoffs against Woodford County.
"The receivers have gotten tremendously better this off-season," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "We spent a lot it starting in January throwing and catching really emphasizing skills because that's what we have to be able to execute. We had a great spring. We're really excited where we are with those guys."
Highlands has been successful with the passing game in previous years by making teams defend the entire field. The Highlands passing attacked averaged just 130.2 yards per game last year with just 15 touchdown receptions after averaging about 238 during the 2014 Class 4A state championship run.
Huber, Posey and Buchert had some success running deep routes last year. Posey had 12 catches for 144 yards last year and Buchert had eight catches for 100 yards and a touchdown against Boone County.
"It's about fakes," Huber said. "We have to make (defenders) think we're breaking into a three-yard out (route) with a head fake then run deep. There are little moves we can make to throw them off. We help each other improve."
Three other seniors hope to make their marks this year in twins Dougie and Chuckie Buckler in addition to Evan Fickenscher. They helped the Highlands junior varsity go 7-2 last year. They have spent recent weeks getting on the same page with recently named starting quarterback in senior Brady Gosney.
"I think the connection between Brady and I is pretty strong considering the fact we've always gone to the same school and played together," Dougie Buckler said. "I think it should help in terms of making receptions."
The receivers are still trying to improve on their roles. Highlands had success in a 7-on-7 tournament at Ryle a few weeks ago.
"We're always targeting new guys trying to find the open route," Fickenscher said. "Whoever is open, that's who (Gosney) is going to throw it to. We usually don't have a number one (target). Everyone is pretty balanced. Going out there and making plays is what we try to do best."
The good news is Highlands does not have to rely on one player to get the job done. That's been a key to the success of a program that owns 23 state championships in school history.
"It's pretty nice to have more than one person who can make plays so there's not as much weight on your shoulders so you can go out and do what you're supposed to do," Chuckie Buckler said. "We all have our specialties. Certain plays are called for each person that's (on the field)."
A number of other juniors and sophomores could emerge by the end of the season. That list includes juniors Jake Noe, Chas Sand, Jack Shultz, Grant Summers, Jared Wogan and Nick Veneman. Veneman had two catches on varsity last year for a total of 37 yards and a touchdown reception against Boone County.
Highlands opens the season Aug. 19 against Cooper. Game time is 7 p.m.