Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Boys Soccer Moves on in Dramatic Win in State Tournament

Highlands Faces Daviess County in State Quarterfinals

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior Luke Schweitzer (14) leaps in the air and heads in the game-winning goal for the Bluebirds against the Montgomery County Indians in the Sub-State 5 contest at Tower Park on Tuesday. The Bluebirds advanced to the state quarterfinals with a 2-1 win. Senior Carter Holmes (10) gets in position to the right.
PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior goalkeeper Will Burnham goes after the ball while teammate Alex Ford (4) shields off Montgomery County senior midfielder Daniel Shelton (6) and Highlands senior Alexander Foubert (2) defenders the near post. Burnham made a save on the play.
The game definitely had the home fans nervous the entire time.

The underdog 10th Region champion Montgomery County Indians (17-4-1 overall) came to Fort Thomas determined to put up a battle against the 9th Region champion Highlands Bluebirds (21-1-3) in the Semi-State 5 contest Tuesday. Indians senior goalkeeper Danny Hernandez did everything he could to give the Indians a chance to advance to the state quarterfinals in Lexington on Saturday.

Hernandez rejected shot after shot recording 13 saves. The Bluebirds had that many corner kicks as a result of using their quickness to keep on the attack and in double overtime, one led the game-winner needed to advance. Highlands sophomore Max Farris hit the corner kick from the right side to the near side where it found senior Luke Schweitzer's forehead. Schweitzer bounced it just in front of the near corner and past a diving Hernandez for the game-winner to send the Bluebirds on to the state quarterfinals with a 2-1 victory with 3:07 left in the second overtime.

"I am in shock. (This is) one of the best soccer games of my life," Schweitzer said. "There is so much adrenaline right now. I can barely control myself."



Schweitzer scored both goals for the Bluebirds. The first one tied the game 1-1 with 26:18 left in the first half. He took  pass on the right side and hit one past Hernandez.

"We've talked all year about corner kicks, about being the guy that makes the difference," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "Max Farris played the perfect ball across. Thankfully, he was there to finish it. Since we've gotten to the postseason, the kids have kind of joked that all we've done is warm up, do a little possession, do some corners and some (penalty kicks) and it paid off (Tuesday)."

Schweitzer is tied with junior Caymon Stevie with a team-high 13 goals. Schweitzer also has six assists for a total of 32 points on the season.

Farris leads Highlands with 35 points on the season. The assist on the game-winner was his 11th of the season. He also has 12 goals.

"We deserved to win that game," Niedert said. "It shouldn't have gone to double OT. We were a better team I think. (Hernandez) was a heck of a keeper. He made the game as close as it was."

Farris and junior Porter Hedenberg among others constantly put pressure on the Indians up top with their speed. Highlands had 43 shots including 15 on goal compared to 10 shots with four on goal for the Indians. Hedenberg is second on the team with 34 points on 11 goals and 12 assists. Highlands senior goalkeeper Will Burnham made three saves.

"I think giving everything I got is what got us the win (Tuesday)," Farris said. "Even though we were down one in the beginning, we just kept fighting. It got us the win. The main thing is try not overthink it. Hopefully when the ball comes to you, it's just instinct to make the play happen."

Highlands takes on the Daviess County Panthers (21-2-1) in the state quarterfinals at at 5 p.m. Saturday at Dunbar High School in Lexington. The 3rd Region and 9th District champion Panthers won the state championship two years ago, 2-1 on penalty kicks over Covington Catholic before losing 3-0 to Louisville St. Xavier in the state championship last year.

Highlands is the only school in the state to see both the boys and girls soccer teams advance to the state quarterfinals. Highlands administrators indicated the Kentucky High School Athletic Association may hold the games back-to-back at one of the Lexington public high schools.

Montgomery County scored its lone goal just 6:10 into the game. Senior forward Daniel Shelton hit a corner kick that curved into the goal for just the 11th goal the Bluebirds have allowed this year. Highlands has scored 94 goals this season.

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"They were clearly a team that was willing to outwork somebody," Niedert said. "Montgomery had some technical skill, but I think every one of our players is a better individual player, but I think Montgomery made up for the difference in the middle by coming with a heck of a work ethic. They were grinding out every pass."

Highlands has only allowed more than one goal in a game once this year. It came in a 2-2 tie at East Central (Indiana) on Sept. 18.

"We have been focusing all week on practicing corners and defending them," said Ford Orem, Highlands junior. "We kind of started off slow. After we gave up the goal, we knew we had to get back onto it. We hustled on defense and cleared it up to our wingers, who crossed it and scored."

The game saw 13 fouls on Montgomery County and seven on Highlands. The Indians saw the game's only yellow card. Fans wanted penalty kick calls in the attacking box. But the Bluebirds received a few free kicks outside the box.

"I'm not necessarily the best role model in trying to keep cool when it comes," Niedert said. "To the ref's credit, he was consistent. It wasn't like we felt like they were getting something we weren't. There were things with a different ref, nine times out of 10, we might get one of those calls in the box or something to that effect. We're not going to fret too much on that. We're going to worry about Daviess County on Saturday. That's our next focus."

Highlands is hoping to advance past the state quarterfinals for the first time since its state runner-up finish in 2008. The Bluebirds lost to Scott (3-1) in 2010 and to Lexington Paul Dunbar (3-1) in the state quarterfinals in 2013 at Lexington Henry Clay.

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