|District 5 faces District 3 in Region 2 Playoffs|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior wide receiver Jason Paul goes in motion against Dixie Heights on Friday. Paul is one of 25 seniors on the team.|
A 1-2 record in Class 5A, District 5 action last year including a 40-20 loss at Dixie Heights saw the Bluebirds hit the road for the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1991. Highlands lost 52-32 at Louisville Doss for its earliest playoff exit since then as well.
The only way that could change is if Highlands, Dixie Heights and Covington Catholic tie at 1-1 in district play and the Bluebirds finish third in the seedings. District 5 will meet District 3 in the playoffs this year. District 3 has three teams in North Bullitt, Bullitt East, Bullitt Central, South Oldham, Oldham County and Nelson County. That district winner could face the fifth-place team out of that district or another district to fill in the fourth spot from District 3 after Grant County dropped out of district play in the off-season.
The South Oldham Dragons currently have the best record out of that district at 6-1 overall and the Bullitt Central Cougars are second at 5-2. The Dragons won the Region 3 crown last year before losing 62-55 to Pulaski County in the state semi-finals.
Of the six teams, only Nelson County has won a state championship capturing the Class 4A crown in 1996, 35-34 in overtime over Lexington Dunbar. Bullitt East lost 15-13 to Bell County in the 2008 Class 4A state championship game.
Highlands owns a record of 8-0 all-time against those six teams in school history. The Bluebirds have won all five meetings against the Dragons and all three against the Oldham County Colonels. They have never played Nelson County or any of the Bullitt County teams.
Highlands honored its 25 seniors before the game and their families. They also honored the senior band members, cheerleaders and dance team members. It marked the final regular season home game for the Bluebirds. One of the football seniors is wide receiver Jason Paul.
Paul does not see the field as much as some of his teammates do. But Paul is not letting himself fall to the wayside like others in his situation sometimes do.
"I really liked going out there and supporting the team from the sidelines," Paul said. "It's really special to see the win. I try to give everyone high and encourage them every time we score a touchdown. You cheer and work hard every day to be a part of the team."
Dixie Now Most Common Bluebird Opponent:
This marked the 74th meeting between Highlands and Dixie Heights making the Colonels the most common Bluebird opponent in school history. Highlands leads that series, 65-9.
Highlands has played Covington Holmes 73 times in school history, but not since 2014. The Bluebirds lead that series, 51-20-2.
Highlands finally saw sophomore linebacker Brycen Huddleston return to the field for the first time Friday. He had a fumble recovery and nine-yard sack in the game. Senior linebacker Logan Sparks and sophomore linebacker Mason Schwalbach also returned to give Highlands depth there in the 3-5 scheme.
Senior defensive back Joe Steiden was not able to play and junior defensive lineman Ben Sisson left the game. After the game, Sisson left on crutches. Steiden said he probably will not play on Friday at Covington Catholic. But Sisson's status for Friday is unknown.
Class 3A 1996 State Champs Honored:
Members of the undefeated 1996 Highlands state championship team were honored Friday. That was the first of 11 state championships under retired Head Coach Dale Mueller during his 20-year tenure. Highlands beat Hopkinsville, 21-14 in the state championship game at KFEC Cardinal Stadium in Louisville.
Overall Record update:
It may have seemed like an eternity between wins for the Bluebirds. Highlands moved to 882-247-26 in 103 seasons of football with the shutout of Dixie Heights.
Despite standing 3-4 overall, the Bluebirds have gained one game on the Valdosta Wildcats from southern Georgia for the most all-time wins in program history in the country. Valdosta is just 2-5 on the season for an all-time record of 915-228-34.
Highlands stands 33 victories away from Valdosta. But Louisville Male (7-1 overall) is closing in on second at 876-232-26 all-time. Former Highlands player Chris Wolfe coaches the Bulldogs.