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Thursday, November 11, 2021

Highlands Football Bids Goodbye to 19 Seniors

Highlands Recorded Huge Wins Over Bowling Green, Cooper

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands wide receiver Clayton Lloyd is one of 19 seniors to graduate this year.

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This year's senior football class hoped to help keep turning the Blue and White back toward the days of the glorious past.

The Bluebirds finished 10-3 losing to Covington Catholic in the region title game when they were freshmen in 2018. But the Bluebirds finished 16-17 over these last three years including consecutive 5-6 seasons. Albeit, Highlands did win a playoff game at Conner in 2020 in the Coronavirus 2019-shortened season.

After a change at head coach in between their junior and senior years, the Bluebirds tried to set a foundation for the future. But because Head Coach Bob Sphire arrived in the spring and Coronavirus restrictions, Highlands did not have a full offseason. That still did not stop the seniors from doing what they could.

"They gave us a chance to know exactly where we are. But they played hard every Friday Night," Sphire said. "They never quit and they never got down. There were a ton of team players that kept playing through every snap."

Highlands might have recorded more wins if wide receiver Jake Welch did not go down during the first loss at Cincinnati McNicholas, 27-21. Welch finished the season with 19 catches for a team-high 322 yards.

The Bluebirds started the season 3-0 including opening up with a 21-18 win over defending Class 5A state champion Bowling Green. Welch had eight catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the 53-38 shoot-out win at Simon Kenton.

Following a four-game losing streak, Highlands shut out Boone County, 41-0 for its lone shutout of the season. The Bluebirds had a chance to beat Covington Catholic at home during the regular season, but saw a field-goal attempt in the final minute blocked in an 8-7 loss. But the Bluebirds rebounded to defeat 7-4 Cooper, 35-7 in Union before losing 38-8 at Covington Catholic in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.

Clayton Lloyd also had some contributions at wide receiver. Lloyd finished with a team-high 25 catches for 318 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. Aidan Halpin gave Highlands some presence at tight end and Griffin Richter did the same at running back. Injuries also hampered Richter throughout his career.

"It was a brotherhood from the start of March 1," Richter said. "We can always say we fought to the end. I know (the friendships) are going to continue (after graduation) and I really look forward to it."

Kaleb Kissee, Conner Barton and Ivan Roller saw significant action on both the offensive and defensive lines. Twins Henry and George King made impacts at defensive line and defensive back respectively. Henry King had two defensive touchdowns in two weeks. Henry King also had a team-highs of 11 tackles for a loss and four sacks.

Eli LaFrange, Oliver Harris, Paxton Porter, Jackson Higgason and Mason Welsch had big contributions at linebacker. Harris had a huge tip for an interception in the win over Bowling Green. Higgason also had four sacks.

Defensive back Isaac Surrey finished with a team-high 54 tackles. He had six tackles for a loss and one quarterback sack.

"I came here after track season. I've never felt more accepted right into a team," Surrey said. "We all love each other. We all worked hard for each other. We came together and gave our all every single practice, every single game, every single drill - everything that we did."

Dylan Honchell and Jacob Hudson may have seen limited action. Logan Henry and Dawson Gauspohl could not play because of injuries. But Highlands still found ways to include them.

The Highlands off-season began Monday. Offensive Coordinator Hayden Sphire tweeted that 25-30 guys showed up for that first early morning workout.

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