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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Highlands-Campbell County Game Story

Campbell County stuns Highlands on last-second field goal

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior defensive back Sam Taylor (44) pursues Campbell County junior running back Alex Dowds (5) during Friday's game in Alexandria. 
Three years ago following a 50-8 defeat in Fort Thomas, Stephen Lickert said the Campbell County Camels football team would continue to play the Highlands Bluebirds with hopes of beating them at some point.

That point came Friday as the Camels beat the Bluebirds, 24-21 when junior Nic Mayer booted a 29-yard field goal as time expired in Alexandria. It marked the first time since 1991 (12-6) that Campbell County defeated Highlands and just the 10th time in 63 meetings. Both teams are 1-1 on the season.

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"It's huge for our program," Lickert said. "If you are going to be a championship program someday, you have to beat champions and (the Bluebirds) are champions. Our guys learned that we can go play with guys like that and we can go beat guys like that. It's about the belief more than anything else. You have to believe you can do it or you can't do it."

Lickert, a 1997 Highlands graduate and running back/linebacker on the 1996 Class 3A state championship team, moved to 1-5 as a head coach against his alma mater. Lickert previously served as head coach at Covington Holmes and Dayton before coming to Campbell County in 2011. In addition to the last three seasons at Campbell County, Highlands beat Holmes in 2007 and 2008 when Lickert was head coach of the Bulldogs.

"Campbell County made plays when (the Camels) needed to make plays," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "We made crucial mistakes at crucial times. When you combine those two, it is hard to win."

Highlands played better defensively on the whole. But even though the offense answered the bell in the second half to come back and tie the game twice, the defense did not come away with enough stops necessary to put the ball back in the offense's hands.

"We have to eliminate big plays and costly penalties," said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. "(It's) a little bit of both (physically and mentally)."

Both teams struggled offensively in the first half. Highlands turned the ball over three times and Campbell County gave it away twice. Highlands senior defensive back Kyle Rust picked off a Camel pass and sophomore Andrew Wyckoff recovered a Campbell County fumble. The Camels saw senior Ethan Kremer recover a Highlands fumble with and sophomore defensive back Logan Harrod pick off two Bluebird passes.

The only score of the first half came with four minutes left in the second quarter. The Camels marched down the field and quarterback Austin Hoeh scored from five yards out on a quarterback sweep left, but Highlands blocked the extra-point kick.

Hoeh found Mayer open on a few key plays during the drive. On 3rd-and-6 from midfield, Hoeh found Mayer for a 15-yard strike to the Highlands 35. After running back Alex Dowds managed just a yard, Hoeh fired the ball down the left sideline and Mayer caught it just in-bounds at the Highlands 5.

The second half started off rough for Highlands. After failing to convert on 3rd-and-6, Highlands senior Cam'Ron Johnston had another big punt of 45 yards pinning Campbell County on its own 8. On the first play, Dowds took the ball and Highlands met him in the backfield. The ball came out and Highlands recovered it, but the officials ruled Dowds down via stopped forward progress.

That is when the Camels came up huge as Mayer got behind the Highlands secondary and Hoeh hit him in stride for a 93-yard touchdown. Hoeh the ran in the two-point conversion to put Campbell County up 14-0.

But Highlands responded. Quarterback Brady Gosney hit junior wide receiver Nick Veneman for a long pass play setting up a two-yard touchdown run by senior Grant Murray and sophomore Nick Bowman hit his first of three extra-point kicks.

Campbell County did punt on its next possession and Highlands ran a steady dose of Murray and senior running back Jared Pulsfort. Murray broke free around the left side for a 30-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14 with 3:11 left in the third quarter.

Highlands appeared to have stopped Campbell County on 4-and-18 from the Camel 12, but the officials called Highlands for roughing the kicker moving the ball to the Camel 27 with 1:44 left in the third quarter. The Camels continued to move the ball down the field and Hoeh punched it in from a yard out with 5:32 left in the game to put Campbell County up 21-14.

Highlands had Campbell County in a 4th-and-4 at the Bluebird 17 on that drive. But Hoeh and Dowds ran the read-option. Hoeh held the ball as long as possible faking a sweep to Dowds before taking off up the middle for a crucial 16-yard run to set the Camels up 1st-and-Goal from the Bluebird 1.

But Highlands responded moving the ball downfield in two and a half minutes. Pulsfort ran it in from two yards out to tie the game at 21 with 3:01 left in the game. Gosney hit Veneman for a crucial 39-yard reception on the drive.

The officials whistled Highlands for a personal foul on the kickoff setting Campbell County up at their own 37-yard-line. With less than two minutes left, Highlands had Campbell County in a 4th-and-6 situation but jumped offsides. After Hoeh converted the first down, he hit Mayer two players later on a 22-yard pass play to the Highlands 15 to set up Mayer's game-winning field goal.

Campbell County ended up with 356 yards of total offense to 338 for Highlands. Hoeh completed 12-of-26 passes for 198 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Mayer led the way hauling in five passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. Dowds finished with 100 yards rushing on 26 carries and a touchdown.

"We were able to run the football," Lickert said. "Alex Dowds ran it really well. Our (offensive) line blocked really well. That's how our system works. If you can run the football, it opens up the passing game. Sometimes the passing game opens up the running game and I think our kids did a good job executing what we were calling and we kept them off-balanced a bit. We were able to drive down the field when we needed to and get points."

Highlands rushed for 200 yards and passed for 138. Murray had another big game rushing the ball 20 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Gosney completed 10-of-18 passes for 138 yards and an interception. Veneman had a team-high four catches for 95 yards.

The Bluebirds had more penalties in the game. Highlands had eight penalties for 105 yards compared to four for 25 yards for Campbell County.

The Bluebirds hoped to be 2-0 before facing four straight Class 6A teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 10 poll entering the week. But they now face the daunting task of bouncing back against the Scott County Cardinals on Friday in Fort Thomas at 7:30 p.m.

Scott County beat Highlands, 54-28 in Georgetown last year. The Cardinals beat the defending Class 5A state runner-up Pulaski County Maroons, 48-19 in Somerset on Friday to move to 2-0 on the season.

Box Score:
HIGHLANDS                   0 0 14  7 – 21
CAMPBELL COUNTY    6 0  8 10 – 24
CC – Hoeh 5 run (kick blocked)
CC – Mayer 94 pass from Hoeh (Hoeh run)
H – Murray 3 run (Bowman kick)
H – Murray 30 run (Bowman kick)
CC – Dowds 1 run (Mayer kick)
H – Pulsfort 3 run (Bowman kick)
CC – Mayer 30 FG
RECORDS: Campbell County 1-1, Highlands 1-1.

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