|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands junior Chuckie Buckler makes a catch in Friday's scrimmage against Cincinnati St. Xavier. Buckler had a touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.|
The Cincinnati St. Xavier Bombers football team showed the Highlands Bluebirds those things in a 48-22 win Friday at David Cecil Memorial Stadium. The teams played the scrimmage like a regular season game. The Bluebird starters played through the third quarter.
"That was what St. X is," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "When St. X is at its best, (the Bombers) have a big offensive line, a powerful running back, big, athletic tight ends. If you keep track of St. X over the course of the season, they play their games against the (Cincinnati) Colerains and the scores are 14-10, 17-14. They methodically keep the ball away from your offense. That does a couple things. It tires your defense. We were undersized. They kept our defense on the field, which frustrated our offense. What they want to do, they're going to do well this year."
St, Xavier played a lot like a state championship contender in Ohio's largest Division I class. Bomber junior quarterback Sean Clifford completed four touchdown passes. Clifford recently verbally committed to Penn State University. The Bombers won state championships in 2005 and 2007 and lost 21-0 to Greater Catholic League South rival Moeller, 21-0 in the region championship last year.
"The most important thing is we definitely found some guys willing to play," said Shelby Jones, Highlands Defensive Coordinator. "We got a lot of guys on the field. We put them in a situation that's not ideal. We got some young guys out there. We will look at the film and see guys that will help us and maybe some guys we thought would be the guys aren't as much of the guys as we thought they were. That's the best offensive team they've ever had. I've been watching them for 11 years. We'd get out and see some games because we've played Elder. They're so balanced."
The Bluebirds made a lot of plays offensively. But they did have drives stall because of turnovers. Highlands did have some issues with the center-quarterback exchange. Quarterback Austin Hergott had to dive on the ball about 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage a couple times.
"It's a scrimmage. We're going to rotate as many guys as we can get in, watch film, get guys into game situations and get better," Weinrich said. "(Fumbles) happen and that's why we're practicing."
The Bombers ate up nearly half the first quarter on their opening drive. They scored from a yard out with 6:26 left in the quarter before Clifford's first touchdown pass came with 4:06 left in the quarter. That came after an interception to put St. Xavier up 14-0.
But Highlands responded with a nice drive. Hergott connected with Eric Miller for a 41-yard pass to set up a Nick Kendall 1-yard touchdown run with 1:45 left. That trimmed the margin to 14-7.
But the Bombers pulled away in the second quarter. Clifford completed two more touchdown passes to put St. Xavier up 28-7. The Bombers drove for another score. But with 2:03 remaining, Austin Beal picked off Clifford's pass in the end zone and brought it out to the Highlands 16.
St. Xavier extended the lead to 45-7 in the third before Highlands scored again. Hergott found Bradley Greene for a 26-yard strike with 3:13 left in the third and Jared Dougherty made his second extra-point attempt to trim it to 45-14 Bombers.
"I think it worked out really well," Greene said "It was our first time in a game situation. They were just physical. You had to use your hands with them for sure because it was tough to get off the bump-and-run sometimes. We'll continue to do that."
Highlands did score a few minutes later. Kendall broke free for a 73-yard touchdown run. But a holding penalty negated it.
Like previous years following scrimmages against Louisville Trinity, the Bluebirds are not discouraged. They've bounced back to win state championships three of the last four years and a runner-up finish the other year.
"I think we're going to get physically and mentally better," said Jacob Johnson, Highlands junior defensive lineman. "Losing isn't good. It shows that we need to get better as a team and always improve. It's a matter of getting low. Standing up gets you blown off the ball."
Highlands travels to Cooper on Friday to start the season. Game time is 7 p.m. in Union.