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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Highlands-Ballard Football Scrimmage

Bluebirds Find Areas of Improvement in Scrimmage

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. The Highlands offensive linemen set up blocks in the scrimmage against Louisville Ballard on Friday. The Bluebird offensive linemen, from top to bottom, are Max Dierig (55), Jackson Roy (66), Brock Huber (54), Dylan Turner (77) and Kaleb Kissee (69).
The Highlands Bluebirds football team has generally approached scrimmages like a practice throughout the years.

You don't have the usual scouting reports and various game preparations. But the Highlands coaching staff said facing someone that's not a teammate helps expose things that need worked on.

The Class 6A Ballard Bruins located on Louisville's east side came to town Friday (8-16) with those same intentions. The varsity teams started off the game with a certain number of plays on offense then defense before the junior varsity teams came in.

After those sequences, the varsity teams played two 12-minute quarters. The score was not kept. But during those 24 minutes, the teams tied 13-13. Ballard did have a touchdown called back on a penalty late in the second quarter.

"You don't watch it like a game. There's so much you're thinking about during the scrimmage," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "It's hard to get into the flow of a scrimmage as a player. We saw things we hadn't seen last week and summer. We found some good things."

Highlands senior linebacker Brycen Huddleston made a statement quickly on the opening kickoff on the first quarter. He took the hand-off on the end-around and bolted down the Ballard sideline for a touchdown. The Eastern Michigan commit also had several bone-jarring hits. The coaches credited a number of players for solid blocks such as senior Sawyer Depp on Huddleston's touchdown.

The other Highlands touchdown came in the second quarter. Sophomore wide receiver Jacob Welch ran behind the Bruin secondary and senior quarterback Collin Hollingsworth hit him in stride for about a 90-yard touchdown.

"We've got guys who can make plays like that and we have to make those plays a lot more frequently," said Sam Umberg, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "That's just doing the little things right every single play and those plays will create themselves."

Highlands returned three starters on the offensive line in seniors Max Dierig, Dylan Turner and Brock Huber. Some offensive linemen will see varsity action there for the first time this year. Junior Jackson Roy moved over from the defensive line this season.

"It's a really positive thing," Umberg said. "Right now, we're still trying to figure out who our identity is. We know some of the things we're good at. But at the end of the day, we need to continue to get better at the things we need to work on. That's the attitude we had going into (Friday). If you go into a practice and continue to work on the things that we know we're already good at, you're not going to get better at the things you need to be successful."

Senior wide receiver Joey Deschler is back on the field after missing most of last season. He has been chomping at the bits to go back out there and help the Bluebirds.

"I'm having a lot of fun. I was able to get right back into it," Deschler said. "I was told to take baby steps to ease back into it just to make sure I don't re-injure myself. It was hard in the beginning, but everything has been figured out. Now we're all good."

The Highlands defense saw a number of looks from Ballard's Spread offense. Weinrich said the biggest surprise of a Spread offense is many teams look to run out of it first.

"It's an option offense," Weinrich said. "So if you take away one, they're going to go with the other so it's a hard offense to defend and (the Bruins) do a good job at it."

Ballard ran some read-option plays. Simon Kenton ran that play a lot last year and Covington Catholic has done it in the past.

"It's great practice," said Griffin Welsch, Highlands senior defensive lineman. "We're going to be seeing this later on into the season."

The Highlands Junior Varsity showed signs of promise as well. Sophomore quarterback Isaac Surrey rolled to his right and found junior wide receiver Chase Hoffman open for a touchdown on one series.

Highlands opens the season Friday at Scott. Game time is 7 p.m.

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