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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Highlands loses to Covington Catholic on last-second blocked field goal attempt

Colonels Block Field Goal in Last Minute to Preserve Win

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands junior quarterback Charlie Noon looks downfield in the game against Covington Catholic on Friday.

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The eight points the visitors put up in this game is the same amount of consecutive wins they have in this series.

The closest football game the Highlands Bluebirds and Covington Catholic Colonels have had in a while showed a few things. It showed the progress the Bluebirds (4-5 overall) have made this year. But as Highlands Head Coach Bob Sphire pointed out, it also showed Highlands was two points not good enough in the 8-7 Covington Catholic (5-3) win.

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"That hurts. We're out there at the end of that game looking at that scoreboard,"
Sphire said. "That's a pretty burning, scorching visual in your brain that you're probably going to carry with you for the rest of your life. That's what happens when you compete your tail off for 48 minutes and you just have some things happen down the stretch. You have to do a better job. Everybody's got to do a better job. We tackled our tails off really for the first time all season and we flew to the football. We just have to figure out how to win those games now."

CovCath moved to 3-0 staying on top of the district and Highlands fell to 1-2 in district play. The teams could have a rematch in the playoffs.

Highlands drove down the field and lined up to boot the game-winning field goal from 30 yards out in the final minute of the game. But Highlands had issues setting it up. With time winding down, CovCath timed the snap and blocked junior Davis Burleigh's kick then ran out the clock to preserve the victory.

Senior defensive lineman Trevor Wilson blocked the kick for Covington Catholic. The Bluebirds had converted 1-of-2 field goal tries prior to that attempt. They've converted 29-of-30 point after touchdown kicks this year. Sphire said the team should have taken a delay-of-game penalty. But the Bluebirds did not have a timeout.

"We obviously knew (Burleigh) had a strong leg," said Eddie Eviston, CovCath Head Coach. "Our special teams coach talked about it the whole drive. We knew we probably had to get some pressure and try to make it. We were able to get in there and make a big block."

The Bluebirds executed well on the last drive to earn the chance to win the game led by junior quarterback Charlie Noon. Highlands put up 172 yards of total offense with 102 rushing and 70 passing on 47 plays for an average of between three and four yards per play. Noon completed 7-of-13 for that passing total and rushed for 82 yards on 24 carries for an average of between three and four yards per carry.

"In the first half, we missed some explosive plays just poor execution," said Hayden Sphire, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "We just came back to them at the start of the second half and executed them. This is hard. These kids absolutely fought their tails off. That was one of the most difficult and heartbreaking ways to lose a game. But games like this are kind of the building block to a championship program."

Highlands had 12 first downs. The Bluebirds converted on 2-of-11 for 18 percent on third down and 3-of-5 on fourth down for 60 percent.

Sophomore wide receiver Carson Class came up with a huge catch on a 4th-and-10 from the CovCath 35. Noon rolled to his right and found Class over the middle. Class had two catches on the drive for 30 yards.

The Colonels scored their lone touchdown with two minutes, 50 seconds left in the game. Senior quarterback Preston Agee set it up with a 33-yard run to the Highlands four. Sophomore running back Owen Leen scored on the short run to make it 7-6 Bluebirds.

"It wasn't any player," Bob Sphire said. "It was just one of those things. They're a good football team. We're a good football team. It was a classic battle. We just flinched at the wrong time."

But another big play occurred on the point-after kick. Highlands drew a tight offsides penalty and CovCath decided to go for two. The Colonels lined up in an unbalanced set giving the ball to senior running back Brayden Collins going right. Highlands junior defensive back Adam Dunn met him near the goal line, but could not stop Collins from scoring the conversion run.

"We were moving the ball pretty well. We'd made two plays (but) couldn't get the third play," Eviston said. "It was hard to move the chains, keep the series going all night long. We needed a couple big plays. When you get the ball half the distance, obviously you have to think about it. I trust our offense. I trust our guys up front. That's what we decided to do. It worked out for us."

Highlands took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove all the way to the CovCath two holding the ball for nearly nine minutes. The Colonels held on four tries to punch the ball in the end zone even though Noon appeared to score on second down.

The Colonels moved the ball to their 20. But a bad snap led to Highlands senior defensive lineman Henry King recovering the ball in the end zone for the touchdown with 1:12 left in the third quarter. That is the second touchdown for King in two weeks.

Covington Catholic put up 132 yards of total offense with 116 rushing on 45 plays for an average of between two to three yards per play. The Colonels converted 2-of-9 on third down for 22 percent and 2-of-5 on fourth down for 40 percent.

The leading rusher in senior running back Reid Hummel had 86 yards on 13 carries for an average of between six and seven per carry. Agee had 15 carries for 75 yards for an average of five per touch.

Highlands did win the turnover battle. Senior linebacker Eli LaFrange recorded his second interception of the season near midfield in the first quarter. The Bluebirds drove to the CovCath 36, but could not convert on a 4th-and-four.

"Offensively, I thought we could have done things a lot better," Hayden Sphire said. "In the second half, we really controlled the clock and shortened the game. The defense played its absolute tail off. But we have to do more. (The defenders) did about everything they could. CovCath made two big plays there that kind of changed the game. (CovCath) is top tier program. We're still building. That's part of the process."

The Bluebirds conclude the regular season Friday at Cooper (6-2). Game time is 7:30 p.m. in Union.

Box Score:


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