|Jaguars Shock Bluebirds in Rain-Delayed Game|
|PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands junior offensive lineman Kaleb Kissee sets up for a block in Friday's game against the Cooper Jaguars.|
By G. Michael Graham
The Highlands Bluebirds football team knew what had to be done defensively.
Stop Cooper Jaguars senior quarterback Jeremiah Lee and senior running back Eric Wright running the football. Like last week against Covington Catholic, the Highlands 3-5 defensive line stunted like crazy. But the Bluebirds could not penetrate the backfield enough yielding 398 yards rushing in a 48-21 Class 5A, District 5 defeat Friday.
The loss leaves the Bluebirds and Jaguars 3-4 on the season and both finished 2-2 in district play. Both teams are going to the playoffs. But where they will be playing is up in the air. Covington Catholic (6-0) smashed Conner, 40-0 on Friday to finish 4-0 in district play and leave Conner (3-2) also 2-2 in district play. Boone County (1-6) is not going to the playoffs after finishing 0-4 in district action. Lightning in the area pushed the game back two hours.
Cooper won in Fort Thomas for the first time in school history. The Bluebirds had won the previous four meetings.
Wright ran for 200 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns for an average of just more than seven yards per carry and Lee had 17 carries for 198 yards and two touchdowns for an average of between 11 and 12 yards per touch. Four players have rushed for more than 100 yards against Highlands this year.
"They controlled the ball," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "They had two dynamic backs that did a good job finding the hole."
Highlands stayed in the game running the ball well out of the Spread offense with 261 yards. Senior running back Mason South ran for 159 yards on 23 carries for just under seven yards per carry and sophomore quarterback Charlie Noon rushed for 104 yards on 14 carries for an average of just more than seven yards per carry.
The Bluebirds finished with 367 yards on 58 plays for an average of just more than six yards per play. The Jaguars had 437 yards on 53 plays for just more than eight yards per play.
Noon completed 7-of-15 passes for 94 yards with two interceptions. Junior Jake Welch had three catches for 53 yards and junior wide receiver Oliver Harris had two for 40 yards.
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Cooper took the opening kickoff and drove down the field. Lee punched it in from five yards out to put the Jaguars up 7-0. Lee then took a fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff 35 yards for a touchdown to put Cooper up 13-0 with six minutes left in the first half.
Highlands responded with a score going down the field. Senior running back Jake Fahlbusch scored from a yard out with 2:04 remaining to trim the margin to 13-7 in the first quarter.
The Jaguars took the ball and drove down the field. Lee found Xavier Smith for a 13-yard touchdown with 8:01 left in the second quarter. Following a South three-yard run, Cooper scored with 31 seconds left. Wright scored from five yards out to put the Jaguars up 27-14 at halftime.
Noon entered the game in the second quarter and took Highlands down the field to start the first half. He broke free on the right side for a 24-yard touchdown run with 8:53 left in the third quarter to trim the margin to 27-21.
The Bluebirds finally received a defensive stop when senior defensive back Jason Noe picked off a pass. But Highlands did not score and had to punt. Lee broke free for an 87-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to put Cooper up 33-21. Wright added touchdown runs of 25 and 44 yards to make the final score.
"We got ourselves behind the chains on that drive there in the fourth quarter. We had a crucial penalty that put us back," Weinrich said. "Then we had a sack, which put us out of the opportunity to try to go for it. Then we got it back and still had a shot. It was tough conditions throwing the ball. The ball ventured a little high. We had a shot at it, tipped it and they intercepted it. That really hurts you."
The Bluebirds have two non-district games before the playoffs in two weeks. Highlands takes on Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller (2-6) at David Cecil Memorial Stadium on Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.