Bluebirds Record Third Shutout of Season
|PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands senior Sawyer Depp (3) celebrates after running 61 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter Friday against Boone County. Depp ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns on six carries in the victory.|
Like every team in the country, the Highlands Bluebirds football team had faced some challenges in a two-game losing streak.
But Head Coach Brian Weinrich, Offensive Coordinator Sam Umberg and the coaching staff had no doubt the Bluebirds would not let those challenges derail the rest of the season. The Bluebirds (5-3 overall, 1-1 district) took out their frustrations on the Boone County Rebels (2-6, 0-3) with their third shutout of the season, 49-0 on Friday. This also marked the 900th win in school history (see sidebar in Sports for more details).
"Our guys did what real men do," Weinrich said. "When you have adversity, you don't sit around and make a bunch of excuses, hide behind a computer, send anonymous emails. You're a real man and you wake up in the morning, work and you fix the problems. That's what our country was built upon. They showed up Saturday morning (after the 20-17 Conner loss) and we had the best film session we've had all year and they were ready to go. I really feel like it was our best week of practice. It shows a lot about these guys not just as football players this week."
The Highlands 3-5 defense played as sound as usual against the Boone County Spread offense. The Bluebirds held the Rebels to just 103 yards of total offense on 46 carries and seven first downs for an average of just more than 2.2 yards per carry.
"It was a team effort," Weinrich said. "Every guy showed up. We really learned a lot this week about trusting each other. It showed (Friday). That's what we emphasized all week. I'm really proud of the guys for playing so hard."
The Rebels tried taking a number of different angles out of the shotgun. They were just 1-for-10 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down.
Highlands had a number of players make tackles. Senior linebacker Brennan Haigis led the Bluebirds with four tackles including one for a loss. Senior defensive back Max Guetle had two tackles for a loss and junior defensive lineman Conner Shelton had a quarterback sack. Haigis also made all seven extra-point attempts.
"It really just comes down to your feet and if you get a good angle, you're right in position," Guetle said. "We keyed on our keys and were just doing whatever our basic defense was. It feels great."
The Rebels had the game's two turnovers. Highlands senior defensive back Sawyer Depp recovered a fumble in Boone County territory and sophomore linebacker Dawson Gauspohl recovered the ball on a kickoff that hit off a Rebel player on a low line drive from senior kicker Nick Fischer. Fischer is also the goalkeeper on the Highlands boys soccer team.
"I feel like (special teams) has done well. We've been busting our tails out there and working for it," Gauspohl said. "My animal instincts kicked in and I just went for the ball and made sure (the Rebels) didn't get it."
The Highlands offense put together a solid half of football building a 42-0 lead and earning its second running clock of the season. The Bluebirds gained 394 yards on 56 carries and 20 first downs for an average of just more than seven yards per carry. They converted on 6-of-9 on third down for 67 percent and 0-for-2 on fourth down.
Highlands lined up in its usual spread formation. But the Bluebirds lined up blocking backs in different places including just outside the tackles in the slots where tight ends often line up. They ran for 282 yards.
"That's what we've been talking about doing really all year," Umberg said. "I think we finally saw the dots get connected. We were about as efficient as you can be. It was really great. There's still a lot of coaching points."
The Bluebirds received some help offensively from some players that had been playing solely on defense in Depp, senior defensive back Jacob Brass and senior linebacker Brycen Huddleston. Depp led the Bluebirds with 136 yards rushing on six carries and two touchdowns for an average of between 22 and 23 yards per carry. Junior running back Joe Buten also played for the first time since the Campbell County win for the Bluebirds.
"It's just (about) getting the ball in the play makers' hands," Umberg said. "They've been making plays all year whether it be kickoff, special teams on defense then giving them to get the opportunities on offense just shows you exactly what they can do. Having guys like that makes coaches' jobs easy. Get them in open space and good things will happen."
Depp broke free for a 61-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to put Highlands up 14-0. His second one came from nine yards out in the second quarter to give the Bluebirds a 21-0 advantage. Depp had not had a varsity carry since his sophomore year. The coaching staff moved him to defensive back as a junior last year.
"We want to go out there and be relentless and we're never going to take a play off," Depp said. "Any opportunity I can have to have the ball in my hands, I'm going to take it and I'm going to go. I was extremely excited when (the coaches) told me this week that I would be able to play both ways. I think it was really important for our offense to get some momentum and just get that feeling of just driving down the field again."
Sophomore running back Griffin Richter finished with 103 yards rushing on 14 carries and a touchdown for an average of between seven and eight yards per touch. Richter broke free for a 57-yard run down to the Boone County three before scoring the only touchdown the Bluebirds needed to win the game.
Senior quarterback Collin Hollingsworth completed 7-of-10 passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns. One went to Huddleston for 12 yards and Brass for 15 to put the Bluebirds up 35-0.
Seniors Adam Weyer and Hunter Ahlfeld led the Bluebirds with two catches each. Weyer had a team-high 47 yards and Ahlfeld had a 12-yard touchdown reception to make the halftime score of 42-0.
The Bluebirds played the reserves in the second half. Junior quarterback Jake Fahlbusch had the lone touchdown of the second half on an 8-yard scamper.
Highlands plays host to undefeated Covington Catholic (8-0) on Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.