By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
BOWLING GREEN – Every championship comes with its own unique flavor, especially in Caketown.
This football state championship comes with a recipe for a state-record six consecutive titles and 30 consecutive playoff wins. Class 4A’s top-ranked Highlands Bluebirds (14-1) grabbed that record all to their lonesome Friday with a 47-0 thrashing of the Collins Titans (11-4) at Western Kentucky University’s Houchens/L.T. Smith Stadium.
Boyle County set the mark with five consecutive titles between 1999 and 2003. Highlands snapped Boyle County's 29-game playoff winning streak with a 22-6 win against the Rebels in the 2004 Class 3A title game.
The Bluebirds recorded their second shutout of the year dominating both sides of the ball. They outgained the Titans, 476-173 in total offense. Highlands also garnered 22 first downs to 17 for Collins.
The Titans averaged about 40 points per game and knocked off the previously undefeated, third-ranked Warren East Raiders, 58-7 in the state semifinals last week.
“We didn’t think (a shutout) was going to happen,” said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Co-Head Coach. “We knew we had to play great to give ourselves a chance to win. They have a lot of explosion on offense. We just tried to make them drive the field with no big plays. That’s what we did.”
Collins made its first appearance in the state championship despite forming from Shelby County in 2010. The Titans lost to Louisville Western in the 2010 Region 2 title game before falling to Franklin-Simpson in the semifinals last year.
Highlands once again ran the ball well behind another strong performance from the offensive line that did not allow a quarterback sack. The Bluebirds garnered 323 yards on 41 carries and five touchdowns for an average of 7.9 a carry.
Highlands nearly saw three players go for more than 100 yards on the ground. Colin “Frog” Seidl led the way with 115 yards on six carries for an average of 19.2 a touch. Quarterback Donovan McCoy followed with 15 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns for an average of seven a carry and Zach Harris had 14 carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns averaging 6.9 a carry.
“I couldn’t have rushed for more than 200 yards last week against Lexington Catholic without (the offensive linemen),” McCoy said. “We couldn’t have beat CovCath twice without them. They’re the spark of this offense. Without them, we don’t run like we do or pass like we do.”
Highlands added some passing to keep the Collins defense guessing. McCoy completed 10-of-15 passes for 153 yards, two touchdowns to four different receivers and two interceptions. Luke Turner once again led the Bluebirds with four catches for 48 yards and a touchdown and Ryan Greene added three catches for 34 yards and a touchdown.
“We’re fortunate to have a lot of great, talented athletes,” said Jason Lynch, Highlands offensive line coach. “They make it easy to do a lot of different things. We have some tight end formations and four-wide formations. We throw a lot on the table to make teams prepare. It’s a testament to the kids and the hard work they do. They put a lot of time into it in the offseason studying film and it showed (Friday).”
On the other side, Highlands put constant pressure on Collins quarterback Lawson Page. Page completed just 12-of-26 passes for 106 yards. Teammate DeAndre Farris led the Titans with 60 yards rushing on 10 carries and eight catches for 65 yards.
The Bluebirds sacked Page seven times totaling 81 yards in losses. Defensive lineman Seth Hope had a team-high 10 tackles and five sacks. Teammates Trevor Kraft and Gabe Schultz had the other two sacks.
“The main thing we were trying to do was make sure he didn’t get outside and beat us with the run,” Hope said. “We knew he wouldn’t be able to scramble on us. All the plays we made and pressure we had were good bonuses.”
Also on defense for Highlands, Joey Cochran and Quentin Murry also had tackles for a loss with Thomas Wrobleski, Connor Poston and Jackson Bardo broke up passes with Schultz forcing Page to make one hurried pass.
Highlands also converted better on third and fourth-down and in the Red Zone. The Bluebirds completed their lone fourth-down attempt, all five opportunities in the Red Zone and 6-of-9 for 67 percent on third down.
The Titans managed just 3-for-13 on third for 23 percent and 1-of-6 on fourth down for about 17 percent. They also did not score on either trip to the Red Zone. Collins punted four times for an average of 33.2 yards and Highlands punted just once for 19 yards.
The Bluebirds won the opening kickoff and marched 57 yards on eight plays for the only touchdown they needed to win the game. McCoy found Greene for a 14-yard touchdown just 2:20 into the game. McCoy completed a 13-yard pass to Turner on 4th-and-9 from the Titan 33 during that drive.
On the ensuing drive, Collins marched into Highlands territory. But Poston stuffed Collins’ Masai Whyte for no gain on 4th-and-1 from the 41.
Two possessions later, Highlands took a 13-0 lead. McCoy found Turner for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 2:53 left in the quarter.
The Bluebirds pulled away with three touchdowns on five possessions in the second quarter to go up 33-0 at halftime. Harris stated the onslaught with an 8-yard touchdown just three seconds into the quarter.
On its next possession, Highlands started at its 43 and scored on five plays. Seidl broke down the left sideline and scored from 30 yards out.
The final touchdown of the half came with 2:03 remaining. Harris ran in from three yards out.
The Bluebirds added one touchdown in each of the final two quarters. McCoy scored from seven yards out with 3:56 left in the third and added a 12-yarder with 11:01 left in the fourth.
This year’s senior class becomes the third one to win state championships in all four years of high school. The Bluebirds have played 90 games in the past six years. That is more than any team in the state during that run. Louisville Trinity has played in 89 during that same span.