Saturday, October 22, 2016

Highlands-Grant County Game Story

Bluebirds break losing streak with Highlands-Esque Pummeling

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands junior Braden Posey (1) looks for running room while senior offensive lineman Michael Davidson (59) looks for a block. Highlands dominated Grant County, 50-0 to end the school's second-longest losing streak at seven in a row.

The Blue and White seemed to experience what successful business owners have during struggling seasons.

The desire to succeed never left the locker room. Things just did not work out on the field what the Highlands Bluebirds football team tried in practice and therefore, a long seven-game losing streak ensued.

But like successful business owners, they never gave up. They went back to the drawing board trying to figure things out and it paid off Friday in a 50-0 win over the host Grant County Braves in Class 5A, District 5 action. Highlands (2-7 overall, 1-2) ended the second-longest losing streak in school history as a result and nabbed the third seed in the Class 5A playoffs against the Braves (3-6, 0-3) in what was their Senior Night.
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The stats show how Highlands dominated both sides of the ball in the trenches. The Bluebirds gained 306 yards on 39 plays for an average of about 7.8 yards per play and held the Braves to 68 yards on 49 plays for an average of 1.4 per play. The changes Highlands made on defense particularly helped (see Game Notes).

Highlands especially had success through the air like the team has experienced all season. Four of the seven Bluebird touchdowns came on big plays of 20 or more yards.

"That's what we try to do all the time," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "We try to see what the defense is giving us and we try to take advantage of it. We got guys who can do something with the ball and we just try to get better at what we're doing. That was the goal (Friday)."

The game only look approximately an hour and 30 minutes because Highlands hit the 36-point running clock rule in the second quarter quickly bringing back memories of past Bluebird dominating performances. Highlands recorded its first shut-out in 29 games dating back to a 43-0 convincing win at Warren Central on Oct. 31, 2014 to conclude that regular season.

Highlands senior quarterback Brady Gosney led the way completing 11-of-20 passes for 239 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception. Bluebird senior quarterback Cam'Ron Johnston came on for the final Bluebird possession of the game and completed an 11-yard pass to senior wide receiver Dougie Buckler.

"This game really helped us a lot putting a lot of points on the board, especially for the defense shutting them out," Gosney said. "That's really big getting the confidence going because that was a real big thing with them. I think their confidence was lacking these last few games so I think getting their confidence up will help us for the better in the future (games)."

Eight different wide receivers had catches for the Bluebirds. Junior Nick Veneman led the way with three receptions for 43 yards. Senior Trent Buchert had two catches for 43 yards and two touchdowns with junior Braden Posey adding two catches for 19 yards and a touchdown. Senior Grant Murray had 88 yards of total offense for the Bluebirds taking a middle screen pass 51 yards for a touchdown and rushing for 37 yards on five carries and a score.

Highlands received the ball to start the game and drove down the field quickly. Gosney hit Posey for a 6-yard touchdown and sophomore Nick Bowman hit his first of six extra-point attempts.

Then after senior linebacker Dalton Cornett recovered his fifth fumble of the season at the Grant County 17-yard line, Gosney found Buchert for a 17-yard score. Posey then ran in the two-point conversion to put Highlands up 15-0 with 8:27 left in the first quarter.

"Turnovers are a big part of football," said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. "We harp on that if we get the opportunity to get the ball, we got to get it. If the ball is in the air and we have the opportunity to intercept it, we got to do it. We spend time on that. The more we have the ball, the better the chances we have to win."

The Bluebirds then scored just 19 seconds into the second half. Gosney found Murray just beyond the line of scrimmage on a screen. Murray turned and found nothing but green on his way to the end zone for a 51-yard score to put Highlands up 22-0.

"It was a great team night on all sides of the ball - offense, defense, special teams," Weinrich said. "We came in focused and ready to play. We know there's a lot on the line still and we have to get better every day."

Highlands then received great field position after senior Bradley Greene returned a punt 38 yards deep into Brave territory. Junior Jared Wogan burned the Grant County secondary for a 20-yard score with 8:22 left in the first half to put the Bluebirds up 29-0.

Highlands forced the running clock with some trickery. Murray handed the ball off to Murray on a sweep and Murray gave it to Posey on a reverse. But Posey flipped it back to Gosney and Gosney fired downfield to a wide-open junior Grant Summers for a 54-yard touchdown strike to make it 36-0 Highlands.

The Braves fumbled the ball again and Cornett recovered the ball at the Grant County 8. Cornett has a team-high six fumble recoveries on the season. Murray promptly took it up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown to put Highlands up 43-0 at halftime.

The only score for the Bluebirds in the second half came late in the third quarter. Gosney hit Buchert for a 26-yard touchdown.

Highlands takes on Boone County (1-8) on Friday at 7 p.m. to conclude the season. The Rebels stunned the Campbell County Camels (3-6), 20-14 in double-overtime in Florence on Friday.

Box Score Link:

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