Highlands Hopes for Another Deep Postseason Run
|Highlands senior Austin Frazier returns at right wing for the Bluebirds this season.|
(Img: G. Michael Graham)
The Blue and White had a couple chances to advance to the state semifinals in both regulation and on penalty kicks. But, the Highlands Bluebirds could not come away with the victory in the state quarterfinals at Tower Park against the Lexington Henry Clay Blue Devils losing 2-1 (4-3 on penalty kicks). Henry Clay wound up beating Oldham County, 5-0 in the semifinals and Daviess County, 2-0 in the state championship game.
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The Bluebirds tend to reload for deep postseason runs and they hope this year is no different. They've won two consecutive 9th Region championships and finished state runner-up in 2018.
Highlands graduated 11 seniors from last year's team that finished 17-6-4. They are twins Caymon and Elijah Stevie, Harrison Spiess, Ford Orem, Ty Hopping, Porter Hedenberg, Adam Groneck, Nate Gesenhues, George Gates, Alexander Foubert and goalkeeper Nick Fischer.
Highlands had been conditioning until recently. The Bluebirds could only schedule 14 games in the regular season as a result of Coronavirus 2019. Only 12 games are currently listed.
"I think we're excited to be able to do things related to soccer besides just fitness," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "The guys are pretty sharp. It's actually fun to get your 21 (players) together on the field and play as close to real soccer as you can."
Niedert pointed out the players did some things on their own until they could reconvene. They hope to use their speed as well as they have the past couple seasons.
"We just hope to be able to exploit some things on the opponent from that. We're sharp on the ball," Neidert said. "You don't really know how we compare until we get out there against some of our competition out there."
Things will start with a fourth-year stater in senior forward Max Farris. Farris finished first last year with 32 points and eight assists and finished second with 12 goals.
Junior Jordan Frisk and sophomore Colin Pieper could also see a lot of action at forward. The roster lists three utility players in senior Jack Banks, Hank Cook and Ben Fischer. Senior Austin Frazier returns at right wing.
"We'll have to move the ball instead of playing almost kickball up the field and using our bodies," Frazier said. "We're learning how to dynamically play kicking it to everybody on the field to make a better scoring (chance). We're one-touching and trying to get around people instead of having one person take it up the field the whole team."
Highlands outscored opponents, 63-36 last year. The Bluebirds posted 11 shutouts last year. Strong communication is the key there.
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"I personally feel that I've been a yeller more so the past few days than usual," Banks said. "You just have to be able to alert your teammates what's coming, what to check or if they don't see something, you have to be there and see their blind side for them."
Three seniors could see action at midfielder in Gabe Beiting, Brayden Gillman and Carter Smith. Beiting could also play at defender. The other three seniors who could play at defender are Eli Karnes, Hank Slaby and Colton Vogt.
Six juniors are listed on the roster. Cole Lorenzen and Joel Kendall returns at midfielder. Nick Robinson and Thomas Gray-Torsell could see action at defender with Sam Jones playing midfielder or defender.
Two sophomores could also see action for the Bluebirds this year. They are Caden Schroeder at midfielder or forward and midfielder Peyton Helminiak.
Highlands opens the season Tuesday against Covington Holy Cross. Game time is 8 p.m.