|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands running back Cooper Schwalbach scores the game-winning touchdown in overtime Friday. Schwalbach scored two touchdowns to increase his team-high to six touchdowns this season.|
It's a mentality even some adults don't learn in life.
When things don't go your way, people came blame everyone else or take responsibility for their actions, learn from them and grow. The returning Highlands players sought to it that the ladder happened in off-season after last year's 3-8 debacle. A 2-0 start has the Bluebirds one win away from equaling that win total this season.
"Our kids this year are so incredible," said Zach Deaton, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "There is such great leadership on this team, such great camaraderie on this team. These guys really work well together. No matter what's going on, they have a very firm belief that they will be able to win anywhere we go at anything we do."
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Highlands Head Coach Brian Weinrich gave another big reason the team's alignment issues of last year have been fixed. The Bluebirds trailed 14-0 early in the game before winning 27-20 in overtime over Campbell County.
"The best thing that's come out of these last two weeks is we've been down a lot," Weinrich said. "We were down the entire game (Friday) then we tied it at the end and won it in overtime. Last week, we were down for a while. Not once in two weeks did I hear a negative comment on the sidelines. That's huge. Every guy in practice is getting better every day. In games, guys are supporting each other. They just keep finding way to make plays and that's all you can ask out of everybody."
Trey Bowden, a senior linebacker on last year's team and current baseball player at Northern Kentucky University, expressed sorrow after last season for the coaches putting in that time with the players and not everyone buying in to what has made the Bluebirds successful in the past to the tune of 881 wins in what is the program's 103rd season. But people can tell things have changed early this season.
"That's our goal every day. We want to give to them what they give to us," said Michael Dunn, Highlands offensive line. "They give us so much time, so much effort, so much care. It has to work both way and I think we're really coming together this season. All off-season, we've just bought in. We've been pounding and pounding. That's the motto this year."
Highlands finds itself in better shape than the past two years as a result going into what was a tough stretch against solid Class 6A competition. Scott County is 2-0 after knocking off last year's Class 6A state runner-up Lexington Lafayette, 31-21 and Simon Kenton is once again rolling along with the same record after beating Bryan Station, 49-27.
Ryle (1-1) and Lexington Catholic (1-1) have had some struggles early, but could come together at any time. The Raiders rallied to beat Lexington Henry Clay, 34-28 on Friday at LexCath before Covington Catholic (2-0) dominated the host Knights, 48-2.
Class 5A Notes:
The CovCath Colonels have looked dominant in the first two games. They opened the season with a 49-17 win over Ryle and have outscored their first two opponents, 97-19.
The Bowling Green Purples had won 28 straight entering Friday's road game at Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park. Since 2010, the Purples had won the Class 5A state championship five times in six years. But the Panthers ended that streak with a 35-21 win Friday.
Eight teams in Class 5A have started the season 2-0. That includes two-time state semifinalist Louisville Fern Creek. Fern Creek lost to Bowling Green in that round both times.
Highlands sophomore linebacker Brycen Huddleston got hurt in the offseason. But he said he hopes to return for the CovCath game. Running back Larry Wilson and sophomore Conner Noon also did suit up Friday.
Ahlfeld back at Highlands:
Sophomore Hunter Ahlfeld also came on the sidelines Friday. He's back at Highlands after transferring to Ryle after the freshman team's season ended.
Ahlfeld gave the Highlands freshman team a huge weapon on both sides of the ball at quarterback, running back and defensive back last year. The Bluebird freshman team went 7-3 last year. He threw a few halfback passes after taking a pitch from quarterback Collin Hollingsworth.
Male, Mayfield also 2-0:
The Male Bulldogs under Head Coach Chris Wolfe, a Highlands alum, and the Mayfield Cardinals located in western Kentucky came into the season third and fourth on the national all-time wins list in the country behind Highlands and Valdosta (Georgia).
Male entered the season with 869 all-time wins - 10 behind the Bluebirds' 870 and the Cardinals came into the season tied with Massillon Washington with 861. The Bulldogs are 2-0 following a 35-14 win over Louisville Ballard and the Cardinals moved to 2-0 following a convincing 49-20 win over Hopkinsville.
Highlands gained a game on Valdosta last week. But the Wildcats rebounded from their 45-0 defeat against in-town rival Lowndes County with a 26-0 lightning-shortened win over the Woodland-Stockbridge Wolfpack. The Wildcats moved to 914-224-34 all-time with the win.
Highlands remains 33 games behind Valdosta overall. The Bluebirds are 881-243-26 all-time.
This marked the 64th meeting between the two programs. Highlands moved to 54-10 all-time against Campbell County. The Bluebirds have won four of the five meetings since 2013 when the two programs began playing each other again after a nine-year hiatus.