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Saturday, August 18, 2018

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Bluebird Offense Shows Potential for Great Things in Victory over Jaguars; Boys Soccer Ties Lexington Dunbar

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior running back Cooper Schwalbach (5) takes the hand-off from senior quarterback Grady Cramer (18). Schwalbach rushed for 109 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown for an average of just more than six yards per carry.

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands junior wide receiver Joey Deschler (84) and Cooper junior defensive back Jayden Maynard (11) pursue the ball during the season opener for both teams Friday.
Highlands Offensive Coordinator Zach Deaton had every reason to be thrilled when the Bluebirds scored on their very first possession of the game.

Highlands senior Cooper Schwalbach took the ball and ran left 32 yards for the touchdown following a pass interference call on Cooper. That marked the first of five touchdowns in the 36-7 non-district win for the Bluebirds who averaged about 30 points per game last year.

"Last year, we had a tendency of taking a while to get going," Deaton said. "But this time, we scored off the bat. We found some guys who can make some plays for us. Those guys all did a great job making plays in crucial moments."

Highlands put together 349 yards of offense on 57 plays for just more than 6.1 yards per play compared to Cooper's 206 yards on 63 plays for an average of just under 3.3 per play. The Bluebirds rushed for 220 yards and passed for 129.

Previous great Highlands offenses have spread the field well. The Bluebirds tried a number of deep passes, but could not connect on them for the most part. The longest pass play was a short route that turned into a long 44-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Grady Cramer to junior wide receiver Hunter Ahlfeld.

"I'm excited about where we're going. If you watch our scrimmage last week (at Louisville Ballard), we were very efficient with screens and short passes," Deaton said. "If you watch our game (Friday), we didn't necessarily connect on those plays. But we definitely were able to get the ball down the field. Defensively, you have to honor that."

Seven different receivers caught passes for Highlands. Ahlfeld had a team-high 52 yards on two catches. Senior Nate Roberts led the Bluebirds with four catches for 20 yards.

"We have a lot of wide receivers who can make big plays and when we get the ball, we'll do what we're supposed to do," said Sam Vinson, Highlands sophomore wide receiver. "Once we get the timing down, it will be perfect. In practice, we've been doing well on deep routes. We just have to turn around, jump to the ball and go get it."

Highlands travels to Campbell County (1-0) on Friday. The Camels bested Dixie Heights, 31-3. Dixie Heights is in District 5, Class 5A with Highlands and defending 5A state champion Covington Catholic. Game time is 7 p.m.

Same District Next Year:

Highlands and Cooper opened up against each other the last four years. Those marked the lone four meetings in the series since Cooper opened its doors in 2008. The Jaguars won the 2015 meeting, 37-13 in Union before the Bluebirds outgunned the Jaguars, 52-42 in 2016 in Fort Thomas and 42-22 in Union last year.

That will change next year when the Jaguars move down to Class 5A. Highlands and Covington Catholic will remain in District 5 with Cooper, Boone County and Conner.

Around District 5:

People wondered how Covington Catholic would fare this year following the first undefeated season in school history. The Colonels extended the school record winning streak to 16 in a row with a convincing 40-7 win over the Ryle Raiders on Friday.

Future Opponents:

The nine remaining opponents on the Highlands schedule combined to go 5-2 on Friday. Boone County does not play in Week 0 and Lexington Catholic plays Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in the Roy Kidd Bowl at Madison Central.

Scott County, Simon Kenton and Greenwood all posted victories on Friday. Scott County downed North Bullitt, 56-13 in Georgetown and Greenwood took down county rival Warren Central, 28-6 in William Howard's debut as Gator head coach. Simon Kenton edged Meade County, 29-28.

Student Section Tidbits:

The Highlands student section known as the OZone came to the game decked out in blue.

Senior Austin Beyersdoerfer covered himself with a blue outfit including his head. He lead the cheers along with senior baseball player Nolan Turner among others.

"This year, we're just trying to be as loud as possible," Beyersdoerfer said. "Being loud helps this team perform at its best. We've worked all year for this."

Senior basketball player Zoie Barth hit the drum twice while the students held their hands high, clapped and yelled, "Birds."

Different Touchdown Theme:

For many years, Highlands played the song, "We Like to Party" by Vengaboys at home games when the Bluebirds score touchdowns. The cannon returned this year after being out of commission for years. Instead of on the field, though, it shot off from on top of the school.

Soccer, Boys:
Highlands 0, Lexington Dunbar 0:

The Bluebirds (1-0-1 overall) took the host and state-ranked Bulldogs (0-1-1) into overtime, but neither team could find the net ending the game in a scoreless tie in the Lexington Soccer Showcase.

Dunbar owns four state championships in school history most recently in 2013 when the Bulldogs beat the Bluebirds, 3-1 in the state quarterfinals. That is good for third all-time in Kentucky behind Louisville St. Xavier (13) and Louisville Ballard (9). Dunbar's head coach is veteran Todd Bretz.

Highlands out-shot seventh-ranked Dunbar, 10-5 including 4-3 on goal. Junior goalkeeper Nick Fischer recorded three saves for the Bluebirds.

"We had our fair share of chances as did they," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "I think we were probably the stronger team. No excuses but there are just some factors that come in play when you're driving an hour and a half after the first week of school and things like that just rushing to get down there by 6 p.m. (game start) frankly. But we were pretty happy with the result after we kind of think back on it."

Louisville Collegiate beat Dunbar, 5-0 on Tuesday. Niedert spoke to Collegiate Head Coach Chad Wozniak on Friday. Niedert was told Collegiate scored early then added another quick and Dunbar fell apart.

"There were some good players on Dunbar," Niedert said. "They're still going to be a top dog down in Region 11 so it's some great competition for us. Hopefully, we'll have more trips to Lexington in the future."

Highlands concludes the Lexington Soccer Showcase against Henry Clay (0-1) at 11 a.m. at Lexington Bryan Station. South Warren beat the Blue Devils, 3-1 on Friday.

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