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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Staying Put in 5A for Highlands Football

Bluebirds, Colonels Placed in District with Three Boone County Schools

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior-to-be Andrew Wyckoff gets in his stance in a junior varsity game at Cincinnati St. Xavier last fall.
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association Board of Control made it official a week ago Wednesday.

The Highlands Bluebirds football team will remain in Class 5A, District 5 during the 2019 through 2022 seasons barring any huge enrollment changes after 2020. The initial alignment had the Bluebirds slated to move back down to Class 4A based on numbers.

But Highlands Director of Athletics Matt Haskamp said travel and making the regular season more meaningful played a big role in that decision. Haskamp said a collaborative effort came in the decision that included Head Coach Brian Weinrich. But only an administrator such as the superintendent, principal or AD can vote on the move at the state level.

"You're looking at a lot of things," Haskamp said. "You're looking at filling your schedule. You're looking at putting your kids in a position where they can compete. You have a five-team district here in the (Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference) vs. having two other teams then having one-hour bus rides multiple times throughout the year. If you're in a smaller district, you have to find more non-district games. That's just a really hard thing to do."

The district will again see Highlands face defending state champion Covington Catholic. The Bluebirds and Colonels have been in the same district for a long time and have played every year since 1968. The other three opponents will be Cooper, Conner and Boone County. Cooper and Boone County have been on the schedule the past three seasons.

Highlands has not played Conner since 2006. The Bluebirds and Cougars last played in the same district in 2000 in the old Class AAA, Region 3, District 5.

"We tried to schedule (Conner) in the past," Weinrich said. "There's so many pieces in the puzzle. You don't want to back out on someone who's already committed (to playing you). We're looking forward to playing in a good Northern Kentucky district."

Barre3 Ft. Thomas. 
District 6 in Class 4A placed Scott and Covington Holmes with Boyd County, Rowan County and Harrison County. Mapquest lists about a two-hour, 39 minute drive from Holmes to Boyd County and nearly a two-hour drive from Holmes to Rowan County.

Highlands won the first four 5A state championships between 2007 and 2010 before moving to 4A between 2011 and 2014 winning three state championships and finishing state runner-up in 2013. Holmes, CovCath and Harrison County played in the same 4A District during that time. Pendleton played in it in 2011 and 2012 before electing to drop out for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

That did not leave the issues that occurred during the current cycle when the Kentucky High School Athletic Assocation let Grant County drop out of the current Class 5A, District 5 with Highlands, CovCath and Dixie Heights. That left a three-team district and District 3 champion South Oldham earned a bye as a result even though Class 5A has enough teams to fill in slots unlike Class A and 6A, which have 32 teams.

Highlands will be in a region with District 6 teams Woodford County, Madison Southern, Montgomery County and Anderson County and KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said that district winner could have a bye for the first round of the playoffs this fall. Madison Southern has won that district the last three years and finished state runner-up last year.

But in November, Tackett said the issue would be addressed for the next cycle. Once teams are placed in a district for the cycle, teams will pay $1500 forfeit fees unless additional contracts between the schools are signed per Bylaw 22. Only the smallest football-playing school in Fulton City out in western Kentucky has declined to participate in district play for the 2019-2022 cycle making the Bulldogs ineligible for post-season play during that time.

Players such as sophomore defensive lineman Zach Lewin will face Conner, Boone County and Cooper as district opponents during their senior seasons in 2019. But Lewin said the players are focusing on the daily improvements during the off-season as opposed to specific opponents.

"Just like Coach Weinrich says, you have to win every day," Lewin said. "We have to work hard every day. We have charts up on the wall. We do max-outs every week and people are starting to improve percentage-wise. We need to eat the right foods and drink chocolate milk after practice (among other things)."

The last season of the current cycle starts Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. in Fort Thomas against Cooper. That will be the first of six home games this season.

The complete list of the 2019-2022 KHSAA Football can be seen here:

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