|Bluebirds Pull Away from Eagles in Second Half|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior running back Joe Buten (with ball) tries to escape a Scott tackler in the 42-13 win Friday.|
But the Highlands Bluebirds football team finished the first quarter and the rest of the game strong on its way to a 42-13 non-district win over the host Scott Eagles on Friday. The Bluebirds led 28-13 at halftime and scored one touchdown in each of the third and fourth quarters to pull away.
"I'm not going to say we were in better shape than them because their guys were playing a lot of plays," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "Our guys weren't playing as many plays so they're a good football team. They have some good players."
Highlands ran 64 plays offensively to 63 for Scott. But Highlands had 310 yards to 226 for Scott for averages of just under five per play to between three and four for the Eagles. Highlands finished plus-four in the turnover battle picking off five Scott passes and recovering a fumble with Scott recording one pick and fumble recovery.
"I didn't think we played well at all that first half," said Sam Umberg, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "I thought we came out flat. But we got in at halftime. What we saw in that second half is what we're supposed to be. We got up and down (the field). When we're running that tempo stuff, it's that first first down that gets us going. In that first half, we really couldn't get that first first down to get us going."
Senior defensive back Jacob Brass led the way with two interceptions. He returned one for a touchdown with 3:25 left in the first half to put Highlands up 28-14 following the fourth of six Brennan Haigis point-after-touchdown kicks.
Senior linebacker Brycen Huddleston, senior defensive back Noah LaMothe and junior defensive back Jason Noe had the other interceptions. Senior defensive back Max Guetle had the Highlands fumble recovery.
Highlands did get some penetration into the Scott backfield. Senior defensive lineman Griffin Welsch had a sack and a tackle for a loss with senior linebackers Nelson Bibb and Mason Schwalbach recording one tackle for a loss each.
LaMothe's interception came after sophomore Cameron Patterson burned him for a touchdown with 5:48 left in the first quarter for 22 yards on 3rd-and-Long. That gave the Eagles their lone lead at 7-0. Patterson had five catches for 38 yards.
"I think that's a main part of defense, especially in the secondary because that's what I've been trying to work on," LaMothe said. "It's (about) playing the next play. You forget the last play, good or bad. You start off new, just get that mindset."
After not moving the ball on the first two possessions, Highlands found some rhythm. Junior quarterback Jake Fahlbusch found junior running back Joe Buten for a long pass play in the left flats. The Bluebirds moved to the Scott 5-yard-line after some pass interference plays. On fourth down from the one, Highlands lined up in the stacked backfield and scored when senior Tyler Brune dove in behind the offensive line with 56.3 seconds left.
The Bluebirds took the lead for good after Huddleston set the Bluebirds up in good field position on an interception. Senior wide receiver Jack Delagrange took the pass on a crossing route and scored from 15 yards out with 34.6 seconds left in the half.
"I thought it was important," Delagrange said. "We needed that momentum getting a passing touchdown. I'm really excited to be able to get back. You just have to learn to play a different role if that's what it takes. I just want to make the team better. I just want to do the best I can at the position that I play."
Scott did cut the margin to 14-13 with 9:15 left in the first half when senior Jackson Hardin hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Gus Howlett. Howlett completed 10-of-23 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns and Hardin had four catches for 70 yards.
"We didn't expect them to have that many deep passes, but they got it off," Bibb said. "They were successful using it so we just had to stop it. Everyone has to do his job."
Scott standout running back Quincy Perrin had just eight yards on two carries. But an injury forced him to leave the game early. Neither team saw an individual rush for more than 30 yards.
"That changes everything on both sides of the ball for both teams," Weinrich said. "We have to play better. We did some good things. We capitalized on some of the mistakes they made. They capitalized on some of the mistakes we made. That's why you play games and practice. We're excited. We made some adjustments on some things we hadn't done all summer. We didn't think we would. Guys responded. We'll go home, watch the film and go right back at it trying to get better."
Scott had some success with the quick out passes. But Highlands figured them out and recorded some interceptions swarming to the ball.
Highlands went up 21-14 with 5:13 left in the half. Buten scored from 25 yards out. Following Brass' pick-six, the Bluebirds drove into the red zone late in the first half but could not score before time expired.
The Bluebirds went up 35-13 with 1:47 left in the third quarter. Senior quarterback Collin Hollingsworth ran left on a quarterback sweep and scored from 21 yards out. Hollingsworh took over at quarterback in the second quarter after Fahlbusch started the game (see sidebar in sports).
Highlands had 231 yards passing and just 79 rushing. But the offensive line improved as the game went along.
"We started out a little slow," said Kaleb Kissee, Highlands sophomore offensive lineman. "They came out in a formation we weren't really expecting. We got on the sidelines and (Assistant) Coach (Turner) and Coach (Wayne) Hall had great film. They showed us what we needed to do. We just got out there and fixed it."
Highlands travels to Corbin on Saturday in the Cumberland Falls Pigskin Classic at 5:30 p.m. The opponent is Knoxville (Tennessee) Catholic (1-0).