|Bluebirds Record Just Five First Downs in Shutout|
|PHOTO: Ed Harber. The Highlands seniors in Brycen Huddleston (1), Brock Huber (54), Jacob Brass (29) and Collin Hollingsworth walk out for the pre-game coin toss at Boyle County on Friday.|
But this one turned into a game the Bluebirds (4-2 overall) want to put behind them quickly. The 3-5 Highlands defense kept the game within striking distance. But the offense could not put any points on the board as the host Boyle County Rebels (6-0) shut out the Bluebirds, 30-0. This marked the first time the Rebels did not hit the running clock all season.
The Rebels ran 81 plays and put up 324 yards of offense and 17 first downs for an average of four yards per play with 106 rushing and 218 passing. Boyle County converted 8-of-17 on third down for 47 percent and did not convert the lone fourth-down attempt.
"I'm proud of all the guys. They played hard until the end," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "(The Rebels) were a better team than us (Friday) so we have to go back (Saturday) and get better."
The Bluebirds put up just 97 yards on 55 plays for an average of just under 1.8 yards per play and only five first downs with 62 yards passing and 35 rushing. Highlands converted just 2-of-14 on third down and neither of the fourth-down tries.
Highlands senior quarterback Collin Hollingsworth completed 5-of-20 passes for 62 yards and the two interceptions. Hollingsworth had the longest run for the Bluebirds of 29 yards down the left sideline in the second quarter. The longest pass play went 39 yards to sophomore wide receiver Jake Welch.
"We didn't come out with the grit," said Sam Umberg, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "They were more physical than us. We had a game plan and we clearly did not execute it."
A huge difference came in the turnover department. Highlands entered the game at plus-13 with 18 takeaways and five giveaways.
But the Bluebirds did not win the turnover battle in this game. The Rebels did not turn the ball over while Boyle County senior defensive back Reese Smith picked off two Highlands passes in the end zone. The first one ended a drive in the second quarter and the other one came in the third quarter with the score just 13-0 Rebels.
"A lot of times, it is the turnovers that decide the games when two good teams are playing each other," said Chuck Smith, Boyle County Head Coach. "That was one of our talks during the week. We were able to come in and not turn the ball over. That's good football."
Reese Smith is committed to West Virginia University. He also plays wide receiver and had two catches for 56 yards.
"I think our defense really played lights out," Coach Smith said. "They did a great job. They were all over the field flying around making plays. They did a great job of covering. They did a great job of pressuring their quarterback and getting him scrambling around back there. I thought it was our best defensive performance so far."
The other NCAA Division I commit for the Rebels in senior Landen Bartleson did not play. He is committed to play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Highlands senior linebacker Brycen Huddleston led the Bluebirds with 10 tackles including a sack of Boyle County senior quarterback Reed Lanter. Senior defensive lineman Zach Lewin had six tackles including two for a loss and a quarterback sack. Highlands senior linebacker Mason Schwalbach had four tackles with two tackles for a loss and sack. Highlands senior defensive lineman Griffin Welsch also had a tackle for a loss.
Lanter wound up completing 14-of-26 passes for 218 yards. Senior wide receiver Reiley Colwick led the Rebels with three catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Junior running back Will McDaniel led Boyle County with 21 carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
"(Highlands) took away some of the things we like to do," Coach Smith said. "I think that was their game plan, which was a good game plan because it really slowed down our offense. But what I was really proud of was the way our offense responded and got away from the things that we'd been doing, but were able to do things to counter what they were doing defensively."
McDaniel gave the Rebels the only points they'd need to win with a three-yard touchdown run with 7:01 left in the first quarter on Boyle County's second possession. The Rebels led 10-0 at halftime and 13-0 after three quarters on two sophomore Jackson Smith field goals.
Boyle County pulled away with 17 points in the fourth quarter. A short punt gave the Rebels the ball at the Highlands 34. Lanter then hit Colwick for a 34-yard touchdown to the right post. Reese Smith then caught the two-point conversion to put Boyle County up 21-0 with 10:13 left in the game.
Boyle County had a safety when Highlands snapped the ball over senior punter Jack Delagrange's head. Delagrange had to step out of bounds to prevent a Rebel touchdown. The Rebels then scored the final touchdown when McDaniel scored from two yards out.
Highlands will go for the program's 900th win Friday at David Cecil Memorial Stadium against the Conner Cougars (5-1). Game time is 7 p.m.