|Bluebirds look to regroup during bye week|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior defensive back Sam Taylor (44) records an interception Friday against Simon Kenton. Highlands has a bye week this week.|
Highlands hopes for a similar story. The Bluebirds reeled off seven straight wins after the bye week before losing 41-31 to Pulaski County in the Class 5A state semi-finals in Fort Thomas.
Like last year, the Bluebirds will practice three times doing mostly weight lifting. That helped the Bluebirds recharge last year.
"The bye week is always key," said Trey Bowden, Highlands senior linebacker. "We're going to get healthy. We're going to get the bruises off our arms. We're going to get re-energized. We're going to get ready for Dixie (Heights) now that these games matter (in terms of playoff seeding)."
The Bluebirds take on Dixie Heights, Covington Catholic then Grant County in the Class 5A, District 5 games that determine playoff seeds. The district champion could host the first two round of the playoffs. Highlands ventures to Crestview Hills to face the red Colonels on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. Dixie Heights (3-2) has to battle the team Highlands beat in the Cooper Jaguars (4-2) this Friday before facing the Bluebirds.
The Highlands offense has put up respectable numbers for the most part.putting up 191 points for an average of just below 32 points per game. The Bluebirds have rushed for 1,003 yards and passed for 1,453 averaging about 167 and 242 yards per game respectively. They feel that they left some points on the field in the 77-53 loss to Simon Kenton on Friday.
"You just never know when you're in a game like that where you're going to have to take advantage of every opportunity and we didn't," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "It's a little error here and a little error there in terms of a blocking scheme, a read, a route. You can't say it enough. We just have to keep getting better at everything whether it's lining up right and we want to go quicker. The pace of the game Friday was pretty hectic. We wound up running 95 plays. We feel if we run 95 plays, we ought to be able to score more points than that. We have to figure out a way to capitalize even more."
The Bluebird offensive line led by seniors Michael Davidson, Kyle Finfrock, Trey King, juniors Michael Dunn, Josh Homer, Justin Merkle and sophomore Trent Johnson blocked well against Simon Kenton. Senior Mitch Schry and junior center Sam Sparks did not play Friday still nursing injuries.
The passing game average is up about 110 yards per game from last year. Senior quarterback Brady Gosney has completed 115-of-180 passes for the overall total to 11 different wide receivers led by junior Nick Veneman with 29 catches for 6262 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Trent Buchert is next with 18 catches for 173 yards and junior Braden Posey is third with 17 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown.
"I think we've been pretty consistent," said Cameron Hayes, Highlands senior wide receiver. "We're doing pretty well. We've had everyone on the offense firing on all cylinders. I hope to be able to come back from this injury, get back out on the field and maybe score some touchdowns - contribute a little bit."
Senior Grant Murray leads the Highlands rushing attack with 89 carries for 440 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Jared Pulsfort is next with 72 carries for 368 yards and eight touchdowns.
The Highlands defense has struggled this year allowing 280 points for an average of about 47 points per game. Teams have rushed for 1,501 yards and passed for 1,372 for averages of about 250 and 229 yards per game. Highlands hopes to correct a number of those mistakes.
"We still have to be focused," said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. "When we're here, we have to get as much out of them at each practice as we possibly can. We still have a lot of learning. It's disappointing that we gave up way too many big plays. Giving up big plays, you don't make them work for it. We have to find ways to eliminate the big plays. That's what we're going to work on."
But it is not all bad for the Bluebird defense. Highlands has 10 fumble recoveries and two interceptions on the season. Senior linebacker Dalton Cornett has three fumble recoveries including one for a touchdown. Senior defensive backs Sam Taylor and Kyle Rust have the Highlands interceptions.
"We can certainly make more plays on (defense) whenever we can," Taylor said. "Even if we're getting turnovers, we're still going to make (opponents) play a lot of plays so that we're able to get those opportunities and help the offense out. We have to get hyped out there and do what we can do every play to make sure we're flying around and getting to the ball."
Teams have burned the Bluebirds with a number of different types of passes this year. Simon Kenton specifically hurt Highlands on the inside screens, pump-and-goes and the fade routes.
"We were not exactly doing what we're taught to be doing," Jones said. "We have to start looking back and making sure that our guys are catering more to their strengths. We may have been trying to push guys into doing things that really aren't their strengths. When you self-reflect and look at how things are going, you find things they are good at. That's what we're going to look at and try to put guys in better position to make plays."
But it's not just the defensive backs and linebackers that have to do better helping defend the passing and running games. The defensive linemen know they need to put more pressure on quarterbacks and disrupt plays in the backfield.
"It's about just doing my job and giving all the effort I can," said Jacob Johnson, Highlands senior defensive lineman. "It's about playing with fire and counting on my teammates to do what they can do. It doesn't really matter about your quickness or size. It just matters about your heart and if you're contributing to the team."
The Highlands junior varsity is 5-1 on the season outscoring opponents by an average of about 21-10. The only loss came 24-14 to Cincinnati LaSalle on Sept. 19.
"I think if we're to be called on a Friday Night, we have to be ready to step up to the plate and make plays. It's a lot of fun," said Bailey Armstrong, Highlands sophomore defensive back. "Our JV defense is really strong. I think we'll be really good when it's our time next year."
Highlands owns an overall record of 64-8 against Dixie Heights. The meeting a week from Friday will mark the 73rd meeting between the two teams, which will tie Covington Holmes for the most games played against in school history.
Powderpuff game tonight
It's Friday and a bye week. What are you going to do for you football fix? The annual PowderPuff Football game, that's what!
7 p.m. at Highlands.
Juniors vs Seniors.
Proceeds go to the Sam Scott Memorial Scholarship.