|Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands junior running back Nick Kendall (center) breaks free for a 44-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of Highlands' 44-7 win over Boyd County to open the Class 4A playoffs on Friday.|
|Allen Ramsey. Highlands senior wide receiver Alex Veneman (center) catches a touchdown pass in the first quarter against the Boyd County Lions on Friday. Veneman had seven catches for 167 yards and three touchdowns in the Bluebird win.|
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
It may have been old news manhandling another overmatched first-round playoff opponent.
But should Class 4A’s top-ranked Highlands Bluebirds football team (9-2) earn three more playoff games like it has the previous seven seasons, the Bluebirds will not face the same five opponents in the same rounds like the past two seasons. The defending 4A state champion Collins Titans slipped to 4-7 this season and lost 49-43 at Louisville Western on Friday. Collins ended Highlands’ six-year state championship run with a 37-34 win in the final seconds in the 4A title game last year.
There were not any noticeable upsets in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs on Friday. The Bluebirds face Ashland Blazer (6-4) in the second round for the third straight year on Friday at 7:30 p.m. after beating the Boyd County Lions (2-9), 44-7 in the first round for the fourth straight season.
The Bluebirds could still face the Covington Catholic Colonels (6-4) in the regional title game in Fort Thomas for the fourth straight year and the Lexington Catholic Knights (8-3) in the state semifinals for also the fourth straight season. But undefeated Johnson Central (11-0) and teams like Boyle County (10-1) could have a say in that by the time those rounds come around.
Highlands and Covington Catholic move to Class 5A next year in a district with Grant County and Dixie Heights. Dixie Heights (10-1) is playing well in Class 6A following a District 6-6A championship and first-round 46-18 win over Lexington Tates Creek on Friday.
Series notes against current District 8-4A:
The Bluebirds moved to 32-5-1 all-time against the current five opponents from the Class 4A eastern Kentucky District 8.
Highlands is undefeated all-time against four of them. The Bluebirds moved to 4-0 against both Boyd County and Johnson Central with the win Friday. They are 2-0 against Greenup County and Rowan County respectively.
Highlands is also 20-5-1 against Ashland. The Bluebirds have not lost to the Tomcats since 1954 when recently retired 20-year Head Coach Dale Mueller was born.
The Bluebirds may not be scoring as many points as previous years. But they are enforcing the running clock.
Highlands hit it in the first quarter on Friday against Boyd County. That has happened six times this year.
People know that Highlands seniors Andrew “The Cowboy” Abner, Josh Watson and Jack Telek are out for the season with Anterior Cruciated Ligament injuries. But backup quarterback Austin Hergott has also been out lately in addition to senior cornerback James Hinkel.
Highlands defensive backs Austin Beal and Grayson Heck have been out at times this season. But they played Friday.
All-Time Record updates:
Highlands moved to 864-229-26 with the win Friday.
That is still good for the most program wins in Kentucky and second-most in the country behind Valdosta High of South Georgia. The Wildcats moved to 891-215-34 with a thrilling 22-21 win at Lee County on Friday. They finished 9-1 overall and 4-1 in the rugged Region 1-AAAAAA, which is part of Georgia’s largest class.