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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Another Region Crown for Highlands Boys Soccer

Bluebirds Travel to Danville for Semi-State

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Members of the Highlands boys soccer team celebrate with the OZone following the hard-fought 3-2 win over Covington Catholic in the 9th Region title game at Dixie Heights on Saturday.

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands Head Coach Chad Niedert (left) watches during the game. The Bluebirds have been to the 9th Region title game in all three years Niedert has been the head coach.
Nick Fischer admitted he did not know if it was over at first.

But when the senior goalkeeper of the Highlands Bluebirds boys soccer team saw his teammates run over to celebrate with the Highlands student section known as the OZone at the southeast side of Rice Mountjoy Stadium at Dixie Heights, he excitedly joined everyone. The Bluebirds (16-5-4 overall) had just survived penalty kicks, 2-1 to beat the arch-rival Covington Catholic Colonels, 3-2 to win a second straight 9th Region championship late Saturday night.

"These guys have played each other at all sorts of levels tons of times," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "There's bitterness, friendship and everything in between when these guys match up. CovCath is not going to shy away from anything. I think we answered when we needed to answer. I'm so proud of the guys. Right now, it's result-oriented. We're not going to be perfect. We just need to get the win and earn another game."

Fischer stopped four penalty kicks in the win. Only junior midfielder William Bosley scored for the Colonels on the third attempt out of five tries.

"If I'm going to be honest with you, those are all luck," Fischer said. "You practice how far you can jump to one side or if you can come off a line and get to a side. But other than that, I look at their eyes. If they look to a side, I go to that side. I pick a side and I'm going to that side. The ball just happened to find me four times."

Covington Catholic shot first. After Fischer's first block, senior Alexander Foubert made his penalty kick without any problem for the Bluebirds. But after a third block on the fourth round, senior Ford Orem stepped forward and made his penalty kick before Fischer denied the final penalty kick from CovCath junior Grant Montelisciani to end the game.

Covington Catholic sophomore Carter Eilers stopped two Highlands shots. His heroics gave the Colonels a chance in the end.

"We've been practicing it all week and we already picked our spots so I already knew where I was going with it," Orem said. "I just wanted to make up for the penalty kick I made in the game. I just wanted to bury it. I knew I was going right and (Eilers) guessed the right way. But I just put it passed him."

The penalty Orem referred to came with 6:52 left in the game. The ball headed out of bounds and he tried to stop a CovCath player from touching it, but Orem was called for a penalty in the box and senior Jackson Jordahl scored to tie the game at 2-2.

"We all came in the huddle after (the penalty kick) and we all talked about how we need to keep the game simple," said Austin Frazier, Highlands junior. "We just came together and we got it done."

Highlands plays at the 12th Region champion Danville Admirals (17-4-1) in the Semi-State Game 5. The game takes place Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Colonels (11-12-1) came into the game around .500 on the season. But they lost to the likes of Louisville Trinity, Louisville Ballard, Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder, Cincinnati (Ohio) Country Day and Dayton (Ohio) Carroll.

Highlands had a few chances to go ahead in the final minutes of regulation and with 45 seconds left in overtime off a throw-in. But Eilers stopped the ball both times.

The Bluebirds built a 2-0 lead in the second half. They led 1-0 at halftime after junior Max Farris scored with 49 seconds left. That marked the team-leading 11th goal of the season for Farris.

Highlands had a chance to go up 2-0 with 33:46 left in the game when junior Brayden Gillman earned a penalty kick. But Eilers stopped it.

"When you have a PK and you don't convert it, it happens. We've done it before," Niedert said. "But this is a team game. We have guys like Cole Lorenzen who is a sophomore and started the season on junior varsity. He's played 80 minutes for the last 15 games and he's out here crying not because he's sad about anything, but because he gave everything he could. That's just the kind of kid he is and it wears off on our team."

The Bluebirds found that second goal with 22:27 left in the game. A rebound came to senior George Gates for his second goal of the year.

But the Colonels dented the scoreboard with 12:24 left in the game. Sophomore Bernard Early put one in from the right side before the Colonels tied the game with the penalty kick.

Highlands unofficially took 19 shots with 17 coming on goal using the speed and Eilers made 15 saves. CovCath took seven shots with all seven on goal and Fischer made five saves.

Fischer earned the tournament's most valuable player award. Foubert, seniors Elijah Stevie and Porter Hedenberg made the all-tournament team.

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