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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Highlands-LexCath Game Story

Knights Hand Bluebirds Tough Defeat
PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands junior Trent Johnson (65) and senior Michael Dunn (73) pursue Lexington Catholic running back Keith Brinkman (20).
PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands junior running back Cooper Schwalbach looks for running room. Schwalbach had 81 yards rushing and a touchdown in the 21-18 loss to Lexington Catholic.
Of the 17 losses since the start of 2015, this one could be considered the most painful.

The Highlands Bluebirds football team led for a good part of the game -- until the final 45 seconds. The Lexington Catholic Knights put together two touchdown drives in the final 4:55 to steal a 21-18 victory at David Cecil Memorial Stadium on Homecoming Night on Friday.

The loss leaves the Bluebirds (2-3 overall) with a three-game losing streak for the third straight season. This marked just the second LexCath (3-2) win in nine meetings. The other one came 17-0 in the 2005 Class 3A region title game.

The game came down to third and fourth-down efficiency. The Knights converted 8-of-15 on third down for 53 percent and 2-of-3 on fourth down for 67 percent. On the home side, Highlands converted just 2-of-10 on third down for 20 percent and 1-of-3 on fourth down for 33 percent.

LexCath converted both fourth down attempts on the game-winning drive. The second one came on a 4th-and-goal from the Highlands 1. Senior fullback Dylan Coulter took the ball and powered his way into the end zone with 45 seconds left and the Knights made a two-point conversion pass when sophomore quarterback Beau Allen hit senior tight end Gavin Cameron. Highlands drove down the field trying to win the game, but ran out of time.

"They just did what they were (trying to do offensively)," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "(Allen) popped free sometimes and got them some first downs when they needed it. They completed a big fourth down. We had a chance to get them off the field. They executed well at the end."

The Knights gained 413 total yards on 75 plays for an average of about 5.5 yards per play compared to 356 yards on 57 carries for an average of 6.2 per play. The big story again came in the running department. LexCath rushed for 259 yards on 46 carries for an average of 5.6 per carry compared to just 72 yards on 25 carries for just under three per touch.

Highlands could not consistently penetrate the backfield against LexCath offensive linemen such as senior 6-foot-7-inch Jacob Ballard and junior John Lynch. Senior Dameon Jones led the Knights with 209 yards rushing on 29 carries and a touchdown for an average of just more than seven yards per carry. Junior Cooper Schwalbach led Highlands with 81 yards rushing on 22 carries and a touchdown for an average of just under four per carry and three catches for 19 yards.

"That's who (Jones) is. He's a great running back," Weinrich said. "He has great vision and made a lot of yards after contact. He had a good night."

Highlands senior quarterback Carl Schoellman completed 21-of-28 passes for 284 yards to nine different receivers. Junior Grady Cramer had the most yards at 68 on two catches and a touchdown with senior Jared Wogan hauling in five passes for 46 yards and senior Nick Veneman catching two for 51.

"We just have to come in (Saturday), get better and grow," said Zach Deaton, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "Lexington Catholic is a good football team. We need to make better decisions."

Highlands did put some pressure on Allen and Jones in the backfield. Junior Trent Johnson and senior Michael Dunn had sacks and Johnson added a tackle for a loss.

Highlands recorded two fourth-quarter turnovers while committing none. Junior Alex Starkey set Highlands up at the LexCath 9 early in the fourth quarter recovering a Jones fumble and senior Harrison Traylor recorded his second interception of the year. But the only points Highlands managed off them came when junior Nick Bowman hit a 25-yard field goal with 9:40 left in the game to put the Bluebirds up 18-7.

Neither team scored in the first quarter. But Schoellman hit Cramer for a 29-yard touchdown with 5:18 left in the second quarter to put the Bluebirds up 7-0. Schwalbach then scored from three yards out and Cramer hit Griffin Huber for the two-point conversion with 43 seconds left in the half to give Highlands a 15-0 lead.

But Lexington Catholic scored just before halftime. Allen hit Cameron on a 19-yard pass play to trim the margin to 15-7 at halftime.

LexCath cut the lead to 18-13 with 4:55 left in the game. Jones scored from three yards out.

Highlands faces the daunting task of traveling to Simon Kenton (4-0) on Friday. Game time is 7 p.m. in Independence.

Tidbits on Homecoming King, Queen:

Highlands senior Bonny Lemma was voted Homecoming Queen and Nick Gish received Homecoming King honors.

Gish is the captain of the 8-4 Bluebird soccer team. He has five goals and five assists for a total of 15 points.

"It's a true honor," Gish said. "I never thought that I was going to be King. To have friend and family that actually like you is cool. I try anywhere if I see I can help anyone in any way, I try to step forward and be that person."

Lemma and Gish are both members of Big Buddies, Little Buddies. Gish is also the president of Spanish Club and Lemma is the Tri-Music Honors Society President. Lemma said she also tries to be nice to people even if they are not nice back.

"When I was first put on the court, I was surprised," Lemma said. "I didn't know so many people would vote for me. It's been so touching that so many people of their own accord didn't have to know that much about me came and chose me on the ballot. I think it's really important to be kind and empathetic toward everyone because everyone has their own story and everybody has things that are going on in their lives and if you pay attention and listen, you're going to make a friend. I've always looked at every person as an opportunity to develop a friendship in the future. I think that's what got me here even if here isn't too big of a place."

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