|Highlands Loses to One-Loss Henry Clay in State Quarterfinals|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. The Highlands Bluebirds finished the season 17-6-4 with a second straight appearance in the state quarterfinals on Saturday.|
They unfortunately did not work out in the favor of the Bluebirds (17-6-4 overall) in the state quarterfinal game against the Lexington Henry Blue Devils (23-1-3) on Saturday at Tower Park. Henry Clay won the game, 2-1 after winning the six rounds of penalty kicks, 4-3.
"It's not like I have a better solution for how games end, but I despise PKs," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "It happens. I don't know what the solution is. We have guys leaving here more in tears because they missed a PK or something. We have guys leaving here in tears because they're sad that it's over. We've practiced PKs at that goal. We picked those guys because they've made them time and time again. Nobody's perfect. It's how the game gets decided sometimes. It just didn't work out in our favor."
Both teams made the first three penalty kicks. Senior goalkeeper Nick Fischer, senior Porter Hedenberg and senior George Gates made their shots for the Bluebirds.
But on the fourth and fifth shots for Henry Clay, Fischer blocked them. But Highlands missed the fourth penalty kick off the top post and Henry Clay senior goalkeeper Henry Anderson made a sliding save on the fifth Highlands attempt.
The Blue Devils made their sixth score. Anderson blocked the next Highlands shot, but jumped off the line forcing a redo. Anderson blocked that next shot, however, to send Henry Clay to the state semifinals.
Highlands saw sophomore Cole Lorenzen make the all-tournament team. The Bluebirds beat Danville, 6-3 on Tuesday to make it to the state quarterfinals.
The teams battled hard for 80 minutes of regulation and 10 minutes of overtime. Highlands took the lead with 11:15 left in the game when junior Hank Cook scored off an assist from Hedenberg. That marked the third goal for Cook and seventh assist from Hedenberg of the season.
But the Bluebirds could not hold the lead. Henry Clay tied the game with 6:58 when Highlands could not clear a ball in the attacking box. The frustrating part of the goal is the Blue Devils appeared to be offsides during the play even though Henry Clay did not touch the ball, but it was not called.
Henry Clay had nine shots to six for Highlands including eight on goal to four for the Bluebirds. The Blue Devils also had 24 fouls to 13 for the Bluebirds, four corner kicks and two yellow cards. Highlands had one corner kick and one offsides call.
The Bluebirds graduate 11 seniors from the team that also had roles in the state runner-up finish from a year ago. They are Fischer, Alexander Foubert, Gates, Hedenberg, Nate Gesenhues, Adam Groneck, Ford Orem, Ty Hopping, Harrison Spiess and twins Caymon and Elijah Stevie.
"At the beginning of the year, we talked about having a target on our back because of our success last year," Niedert said. "The question we threw out there was last year a fluke or are we here to stay? Are we here to assert ourselves? We gave everything we could. I'm proud of the guys. We want to be back here next year and for years to come."
The teams also met at Tower Park during the regular season. The teams tied 1-1 on Sept. 7.