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Friday, November 6, 2020

Highlands Earns Much-Needed Road Win Against County Rival

Bluebirds Pull Away from Camels in Second Half

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands sophomore wide receiver Ryan DeBurger goes through warm-ups before the game at Campbell County on Friday. DeBurger had a key 30-yard catch in the fourth quarter of the 34-21 Highlands win.

Editor's Note: There will be no video this week.

Both teams needed a victory entering the playoffs in this make-up rivalry football game.

The Highlands Bluebirds (4-5 overall) recorded that with a 34-21 victory over the host Campbell County Camels (2-6). Highlands played the full nine games allowed during the regular season despite a rise in Coronavirus 2019 cases lately.

The teams played this game as a make-up to three-week delay of the season that started Sept. 11. Campbell County missed one game as a result of the recent rise in Coronavirus 2019 cases. It came last week against Boone County.

"Overall, it was a great game," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "But we really played great in the second half. We found ways to make some plays on some things they were doing offensively. Our offense found some ways to move the ball. We had a lot of guys move around playing some different positions out of necessity. We had some issues come up before the game we weren't expecting so we had to make some adjustments on the fly there as well. But I thought the guys responded great."

The biggest stat that stands out came in the penalty department. The Bluebirds had two for 25 yards and the Camels had 7 for 78.

Campbell County ran 59 plays for 265 yards compared to 41 for Highlands for 217. But Highlands took advantage of special teams play and shorter fields averaging just more than five yards per play compared to around 4.5 yards per play for the Camels.

The Camels did a little better on third down converting 6-of-12 opportunities for 50 percent compared to 3-of-8 for 38 percent. The Bluebirds converted their lone try on fourth down.

The Bluebirds had to contain Campbell County senior running back Crosley Gray. Camel junior quarterback Preston Agee had 85 yards rushing on 17 carries for an average of five yards per carry and Gray had 71 yards on 16 carries for an average of between four and five yards per carry.

"Our up-front pressure just got to them at the end," said Vance Moore, Highlands senior defensive lineman. "We started keeping them inside. Our secondary kept (the wide receivers) covered up so they couldn't throw the ball down the field."

Agee completed 8-of-13 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Eric Davie led the Camels with two catches for 46 yards.

Highlands sophomore quarterback Charlie Noon led the Bluebirds to victory. Noon rushed for 61 yards on 15 carries averaging just more than four yards per carry and completing 4-of-6 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown.

Seniors Dominic Robinson and Jake Fahlbusch had eight carries each for the Bluebirds. Robinson had 48 yards and a touchdown and Fahlbusch had 38 yards and a touchdown.

The Bluebirds found themselves up 14-0 after just one play offensively. Highlands scored just 11 seconds into the game when senior Jason Noe took the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and sophomore kicker Davis Burleigh booted the extra-point attempt to put Highlands up 7-0.

Following a three-and-out, Campbell County set up to punt. But the ball sailed high over the punter's head for the game's lone turnover and Highlands set up at the Camel 1-yard-line. On the next play, Robinson took it in from a yard out with 10:42 left in the first quarter.

"It definitely was a great start. It gave everybody a lot of confidence," Weinrich said. "The excitement was there at the start. That just added to it. It was great executions with the kickoff return team to start the game. The punt return team put us in great position. It was a bad snap. But they were in great position to get us the ball on the 1-yard line. We went out there and walked into the end zone - a no-doubter touchdown. It makes you feel good to start the game off."

But Campbell County responded with a nice drive with a dose of Gray. Agee finished it off powering into the end zone on a 7-yard run with 11 seconds left and junior Josh Rittinger booted the extra points to trim the margin to 14-7.

Robinson returned the ball near the 40 on the ensuing kickoff and the duo of Robinson and Noon did its thing. On 2nd-and-10, Robinson took the ball to the left and cut back to the middle for an 11-yard score and Burleigh's PAT put Highlands back up 14 and 21-7 with 10:12 left in the first half.

Campbell County scored just before the first half to trim the margin to 21-14 with 59 seconds left. Senior Wes Barth hauled in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Agee on a play-action.

The Camels moved into Highlands territory to start the second half. But two huge penalties forced them way back and the Bluebirds drove down to score following the punt.

"We came together as a team and we made the stops when the stops were needed," said Eli LaFrange, Highlands junior linebacker. "We didn't give them anything easy. When they did drive the ball, it took them a lot of plays to get down the field." 

Fahlbusch scored from four yards out and Burleigh's PAT put the Bluebirds up 28-14 with 4:19 left in the third quarter. That is the lone score of the quarter.

"At halftime, the offensive line just got together coaches, players and we just said, 'We're going to be mean, nasty dudes and we're just going to push guys around," said Kaleb Kissee, Highlands junior offensive lineman. "We said if we miss a block, that's alright. We're going to get them the next play. We just took over. We did what our coaches wanted us to do. It really helped get us going."

The Bluebirds put some things together in the passing game in the fourth quarter. On 3rd-and-Long, Noon found sophomore Ryan DeBurger for a big 30-yard play. Sophomore wide receiver Jack Hendrix also had his first varsity catch in the game for eight yards.

"It's all about execution really," DeBurger said. "It was a great pass by Charlie. He threw it as perfect as it could possibly be." 

That allowed the Bluebirds to trim about three more minutes off the clock. Noon found junior wide receiver Jake Welch with 5:48 left from 22 yards out to make the score of 34-14 after Campbell County blocked the PAT.

Campbell County scored the final touchdown with 1:19 left in the game. Senior quarterback Justin Little ran it in from a yard out. Highlands had two big penalties on the drive.

Highlands moved to 57-10 all-time against Campbell County. The Bluebirds have won four straight against the Camels and seven of the past eight meetings since the series resumed in 2013.

Box Score:

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