Saturday, September 15, 2018

Highlands Beats Undefeated Lex Cath in Lexington

Bluebirds Record Biggest Win of Season on Road

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior wide receiver Nate Roberts (80) goes down the sidelines in Friday's 44-27 win over Lexington Catholic.
PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior linebacker Brycen Huddleston (1), sophomore linebacker Andrew Arentsen (92) and junior linebacker Brennan Haigis (57) run toward the sideline during warm-ups prior to the game against Lexington Catholic. Huddleston had three tackles for a loss and returned a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown in the 44-27 Highlands win.
This year's edition of the Highlands Bluebirds football team had shown traits of past great teams.

Highlands just needed a huge win to show it is ready to be back in the conversation of those teams. Those past teams not only rose up for the challenge of facing a solid team on the road, but they put them away. Highlands, ranked fifth in Class 5A, did just that at the home of Class 3A's third-ranked Lexington Catholic Knights on Friday outscoring the hosts, 27-7 in the second half on its way to a 44-27 non-district win. Both teams are 4-1 at the halfway point of the season.
The best one-hour workout in the country. Newport Pavilion. 

"We talked at halftime about executing," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "We looked at the scoreboard and it should say Highlands 20, Bluebirds 17 because we really felt like their 20 points were a result of us. They're a good team. But we really gave them opportunities and so we needed come out and take those opportunities from them and make opportunities for ourselves. I really felt like we came and really focused on what we had to do. We made some plays. We just got more confident as the game was going on, trusting our coverages and trusting our packages up front. We just got after it."

LexCath did out-gain Highlands, 414-340 in total offense. But Highlands ran just 59 plays averaging just more than seven yards per play and the Knights ran 96 averaging just more than 4.3 yards per play. Highlands constantly made LexCath drive the field making plays on defense and capitalizing on Knight mistakes.

That mark may have been high above the Highlands defensive average of 196 yards per game. But the Bluebirds still held the Knights below their season average. The Knights entered the game averaging about 482 yards per game and the Bluebirds came in averaging just under 260.

The Bluebirds wound up plus-one in the turnover category again. Junior linebacker Brycen Huddleston returned a fumble back 52 yards for the touchdown. Senior linebacker Jackson Hagedorn had another interception and senior defensive back Casey Greene recovered a fumble.

"We had a good week of practice and did a cover two," Greene said. "It helped us keeping everything in front of us and not let the big plays happen because that's where they're mostly successful."

Highlands also made some plays in the backfield. Huddleston had three tackles for a loss with junior linebacker Mason Schwalbach making two including a quarterback sack. Senior Nick Bowman also had a quarterback sack.

On the other side, Highlands lost a fumble and did not recover an onside kick in the first quarter. The Knights tried another onside kick, but it went out of bounds.

The Bluebirds knew they could not take away everything from LexCath quarterback Beau Allen in their 3-5 defense. But they wanted to make sure the wide receivers did not get behind them for huge plays. The Bluebirds also wanted to make sure they tackled the receivers as quick as possible when they did make catches.


"We have been playing these guys for 15 years or so in playoff games or so, but nothing has changed at LexCath," Weinrich said. "It's all about the big play. As coaches, we had to keep telling ourselves. Focus on what our plan is and that's to stop the big play because we were getting a little frustrated with their dinking, but we knew that you can't dink and dunk way down the field. You're going to get greedy. You're going to drop a pass. You know you're going to get pressure so we knew we had to mix some things up front and just stay focused on what we were supposed to do and just be patient. After that, I really felt things played into our hands."

Allen hit a lot of short and intermediate routes completing 29-of-49 passes for 299 yards but no touchdowns to six different receivers in the spread offense that used mostly one-back looks. Senior Nathan Schurr led the way with nine catches for 70 yards. Highlands held both below their averages. Allen entered the game averaging 357 yards per game passing and Schurr averaged 91 yards per game receiving. Senior Tommy Knopp added six catches for 73 yards.

The Knights wanted to run the ball better and Ryan Nichols gave them some help there rushing the ball 21 times for 79 yards and a touchdown. But Highlands made stops when needed holding the Knights to just 9-of-19 on third down for 47 percent and 2-of-4 on fourth down for 50 percent.

Highlands senior quarterback Grady Cramer also had a big game in the spread offense. Cramer completed 18-of-26 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown to five different receivers. LexCath had shown vulnerability against the pass in its 3-5 defense allowing an average of just less than 167 yards per game rushing and 166.5 passing. Junior Hunter Ahlfeld led Highlands with five catches for 102 yards and senior Nate Roberts had four catches for 92 yards and a touchdown.

"This week, we gave a set of goals of what we wanted to do offensively in this game and we met most of those goals," said Zach Deaton, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "But more importantly, we just took what the defense was giving us. Our offense is made in such a way to where if they take one thing away, something else is there. As long as we're seeing it and getting the ball there, it's effective. Brady did a great job of seeing what the defense was giving him and then getting the ball to the right place. That's really exciting for us because when he's doing that, really good things happen for us offensively."

The Bluebirds only rushed for 69 yards. But senior Cooper Schwalbach still scored two touchdowns and sophomore Joe Buten added another one. Schwalbach led Highlands with 12 carries for 46 yards and touchdowns. Highlands converted on just 1-of-7 on third down for 14 percent and did not try any conversions on fourth down.

Fans of both teams displayed displeasure over calls. But it turned out almost even. Highlands had 11 for 70 yards and LexCath had nine for 72.

Highlands drove the ball down and scored on its first possession for the fourth time this year when Bowman booted a 24-yard field goal. But after both teams traded punts, LexCath drove down and scored when Nichols scored from five yards out with 3:07 left in the first quarter. Following a recovered onside kick, the Knights scored again when junior Philippe Ilumva scored from four yards out to give LexCath a 14-3 advantage with 52 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Bluebirds responded with their own drive. Buten capped it off going around the right side for an 11-yard touchdown with 11:15 left in the first half to trim the margin to 17-10.

"Their defense respected our passing game more so that really allowed Cooper and I to run more free and helped us out," Buten said. "You just have to trust your teammates. Eventually, it's going to open up."

Highlands earned the ball back. But after a lost fumble, senior Trey Woody booted a 28-yard field goal to give LexCath a 17-10 advantage.

But LexCath botched the Highlands punt giving the Bluebirds the ball at the Knight 8 when Greene recovered it. Cramer hit a short pass to senior tight end Ben Sisson five yards to the three before Schwalbach scored from that distance going to the left side of the line to tie the game at 17 with 3:52 left in the half.

The Knights drove down and the half appeared to end when Allen threw an incomplete pass with one second left in the half. But a questionable pass interference call came on the Bluebirds even though it looked as though the ball was thrown high and appeared as though the LexCath receiver could not catch it. Woody booted the 22-yard field goal to give the Knights a 20-17 halftime lead.

LexCath received the ball to start the second half. But Hagedorn intercepted Allen at the LexCath 31. Highlands turned the turnover into a Bowman 20-yard field goal with 8:26 left in the third quarter to tie the game at 20.


The Bluebirds took the lead for good with 3:47 left in the third. Schwalbach scored from three yards out to give Highlands a 27-20 lead.

The Bluebirds put the game away in the fourth quarter. Bowman booted his third field goal with 8:26 left in the game before Roberts caught one near the left sidelines and darted toward the end zone to put Highlands up 37-20 with 5:11 left in the game. LexCath put a hand on Bowman's third field goal. But the ball just made it over the upright.

"There were some formations that we put out there that we knew we could isolate certain guys and try to take advantage of it," Deaton said. "When we got the ball there on top of it, it was awesome. I thought (Friday) was an awesome night for our team and our community. I'm excited about the direction we're going in."

The Highlands offensive line wore down Lexington Catholic. The Knights saw several players go both directions.

"We put in work doing what (offensive line) Coach (Scott) Turner and Coach (Wayne) Hall tell us during the week," said Trent Johnson, Highlands senior offensive lineman. "If we do what we are told during practice, it's going to translate to the games. Coach Weinrich definitely runs us a lot during the off-season to get us ready for games like this."

That is when Huddleston recorded his first defensive touchdown of the season. Allen completed a short out pass to Knopp for a four-yard gain. But Huddleston took the ball away from Knopp and scampered 52 yards for the touchown.

"(Allen) is one of the best high school quarterbacks I've ever played against," Huddleston said. "What we just really did is they had a lot of plays where it would be 3rd-and-2. They just run one play where they gain 10 yards. Screens and slants were their thing. Coach said we were going to be a coverage defense. But at the same time. we're going to have to come downfield, play fast and make plays."

The Knights scored their lone touchdown of the second half with 50 seconds left in the game. Allen scrambled 24 yards for the touchdown.

Highlands faces another undefeated squad at home Friday when the Simon Kenton Pioneers (5-0) come to town. Game time is 7 p.m.

Box Score Link:

No comments:

Post a Comment