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Friday, October 15, 2021

Heartbreak ends Highlands Boys Soccer season in Kicks from Mark against Covington Catholic

Bluebirds Won 18 Games in Solid Season

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior Joel Kendall boots away a free kick in the 9th Region semifinal game against Covington Catholic.

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It is one of the most frustrating ways for a season to end.

Kicks from the mark.

The Highlands Bluebirds boys soccer team (18-5-1 overall) has benefitted from them at times and not benefitted from them other times over the years. In a year where the Bluebirds did not lose in regulation to any team in the 9th Region and only once to a team from Kentucky, Highlands lost to Covington Catholic (10-8-5), 3-1 on those best-of-five kicks to decide a scoreless game in the 9th Region Semifinals played on the grass field at St. Henry, 1-0.

"If everything was guaranteed, we wouldn't play the game,"
said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "To our credit, we showed up and played well. To CovCath's credit, (the Colonels) did their thing. It's really tough to watch guys with this much talent and passion in the senior class finish it out in such a way where we feel salty about it. It's not because CovCath did anything wrong. It's just the nature of the 80 minutes and even the 10 minutes beyond, we truly felt like we were the better team. Unfortunately, we didn't feel that the score based on the shootout indicated that."

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has resorted to those kicks for years in the postseason, in-season tournament games and district seed games to decide winners. Teams play two five-minute sudden victory periods unlike the two 15-minutes periods the Maine Principal's Association uses trying to let teams decide games on the field.

Highlands sophomore goalkeeper blocked two of the Covington Catholic kicks from the mark. But only senior Jordan Frisk made his for the Bluebirds. Down 2-1, senior Jacob Brandenburg made the fifth penalty kick attempt to win the game for the Colonels. Seniors Coleman Middendorf and Mason Redlinger made their shots.

CovCath had 18 shots to 16 for Highlands with 11 on goal compared to 10 for the Bluebirds. Wilson and Colonel senior goalkeeper Carter Eilers had seven saves each. Eilers kept the game close with many spectacular saves during the regular season meeting Sept. 7 when Highlands won 1-0 in Park Hills.

Both teams committed 12 fouls and had one offsides call. Highlands had three corner kicks and no yellow cards to two corner kicks and two yellow cards for the blue Colonels.

The Bluebirds had plenty of chances to put one in against a team that packed it in defensively. Frisk had a nice look in front of the net with 23:24 left in the game. But his shot deflected off the left post. Their leading scorer in junior forward Colin Pieper made some nice moves past the CovCath defense. But some of his shots missed just a few feet outside the posts.

This marked the final game for eight Highlands seniors. They are Frisk, Thomas Gray-Torsell, Sam Jones, Joel Kendall, Cole Lorenzen, Nick Robinson, Sawyer Tate and Wyatt Thompson.

"I just can't say enough about how much I love these guys as a whole," Niedert said. "These seniors are a special group. Our coaching staff's been around to see these guys from the beginning. It's kind of hard to see them go. We know how much we could have done. We told these guys at the beginning. Soccer is important. But we do what we do and we pride ourselves in the young men that they become. This is just a vehicle for lessons learned. If there's any lesson to be learned, it's that sometimes things don't fall your way."

Kicks from the mark decided both semifinal contests. Dixie Heights edged Ryle, 2-1 winning 6-5 on kicks from the mark in the first game. The battle of Colonels will decide the 9th Region winner on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Boone County.

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