|Bluebirds Add Tradition-Rich Crusaders to Schedule|
|Highlands senior Dominic Robinson surges ahead in the playoff game at Conner last season. The Bluebirds will play Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller on Oct. 30 in Fort Thomas. (Img: Ed Harber)|
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association Board of Control set some parameters for the fall season on July 28 in a virtual meeting.
Outside of the golf seasons that have started, the board said cross country, football, soccer and volleyball can begin practices on Aug. 24 then start games on Sept. 7. The board also limited regular season contests to nine for football, nine cross country meets, 14 soccer games and 24 volleyball games resulting from the Coronavirus 2019 pandemic.
The Highlands football team opens Sept. 11 at home against Simon Kenton. The Bluebirds had to find games Oct. 30 and Nov. 6 after having to forego the first three games on the original schedule. Highlands had a home game against Scott slated for Aug. 21 before playing Chattanooga (Tennessee) Notre Dame on Aug. 29 in the Cumberland Falls Pigskin Classic at Corbin.
The KHSAA forbids members from playing out-of-state teams that are not located in a county that borders Kentucky until further notice. But Highlands did reschedule the Sept. 4 contest at Campbell County for Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.
The Bluebirds also found a game against the Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller Crusaders from the Greater Catholic League South at home on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. Highlands is 0-3 lifetime against the Crusaders. The teams last played in 1997 with Moeller winning 21-20 in the season-opener for Highlands.
Moeller is coming off a 2-8 season last year. The Crusaders own nine state championships in school history. The last two came in 2012 and 2013. The Ohio High School Athletic Association recently reduced the regular season to six games.
"That (Oct. 30) week was hard to fill," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "There were not many schools anywhere in the state of Kentucky that had an open week that week. We just got fortunate that our paths crossed with Moeller. They found out we had a bye. We talked about it and said it would be great."
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Highlands looked at playing teams such as Simon Kenton and Ryle twice. Weinrich said playing a district opponent twice did not make sense because the Bluebirds could see the same team to open the playoffs.
The Bluebirds could have also scheduled a game against Beechwood on Nov. 6. But Highlands did not want to back out of the game against Campbell County.
"That was really huge to be able to keep what was intact," Weinrich said. "There were several schools that had to get rid of a couple games that were scheduled. Simon Kenton is in way worse situation than we are trying to find games. We're in great shape."
Weinrich pointed to the Campbell County game as a rivalry game. He especially looked forward to that game during his playing days in the mid to late 80s. Weinrich played wide receiver and defensive back as a senior on the 1989 Class 3A Highlands state championship team that beat Paducah Tilghman, 7-3 in the title game.
"At this point, the bottom line is the guys want to play games," Weinrich said. "We all agreed that's the most important thing. That's doing what we can to make this experience the best that we can make it. Playing Moeller is a great experience. When we announced it to the players (one) morning, they were excited."
The Highlands girls soccer team has 13 games on the schedule and Head Coach Alex Dean said the Bluebirds are still looking for a date to play Beechwood. Six games are scheduled against 9th Region opponents. The Bluebirds still play in the annual Lexington Catholic Challenge Cup starting Sept. 14 against Sacred Heart. They also have road games at North Oldham and Cincinnati St. Ursula Academy.
Highlands had Ohio schools Mason and Loveland on the schedule. It was a showcase with Highlands and a team from Indiana.
"We have lost some pretty big games in Ohio," Dean said. "It's been kind of weird losing seven games and still making sure we play pretty good competition. I feel we have scheduled ourselves to be ready to go into the postseason."
The Highlands boys soccer team has 13 games on the schedule. That includes five games against teams located in Hamilton County, Ohio including Cincinnat Elder. The Bluebirds also have seven games against 9th Region opponents including Covington Catholic and Newport Central Catholic.
"We still have the same philosophy," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "We're still going to try to put the best schedule (together) we can. We like it to be as competitive as possible. Over the last few years, we've never been afraid to take bumps through the course of the regular season. We go to the region tournament no matter what."
The Bluebirds did lose games against Louisville Collegiate, St. Henry and defending state champion Lexington Henry Clay. The Blue Devils beat the Bluebirds on penalty kicks in the state quarterfinals last year. Neidert said a game may be added for Oct. 10.
The Highlands volleyball team is mostly playing teams in Northern Kentucky like ususal. The Bluebirds still play in the September Slam on Sept. 12 and the Cake Classic on Sept. 18 and 19. But those tournaments are limited to eight teams per KHSAA ruling. The Bluebirds are not going to the annual Jefferson County Invitational Volleyball Tournament at the Ohio Valley Volleyball Center in Louisville this year.
Highlands has been playing Kings High School from Kings Mill, Ohio on an annual basis. But Highlands had to cancel that game this year because teams are not allowed to play out-of-state team located in a county that does not border Kentucky. Kings High is located in Warren County, which is north of Hamilton County where Cincinnati is located.
Highlands cross country Head Coach Brian Alessandro said teams can have 10 runners per race. But 80 kids are on the team including middle schoolers. But he said Ohio made cross country a non-contact sport raising the number of runners in events. The new schedule has not been posted on the team website yet.
"Right now, they don't know how a meet would look like how many teams would be in it or anything like that," Alessandro said. "I did have teams reach out to me that wanted to do dual meets."
The board is slated to meet Aug. 20 at 10:30 a.m. to give further directions. Kentucky's case numbers trended downward last week but climbed again this week while the positivity rate has decreased slightly. See the full Covid-19 report for Kentucky cases here.