Story Matters

Story Matters

THE Official HHS Football Site

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Highlands Fought Back to 10 Victories This Year

Bluebirds Last Had 10-plus Wins in 2014

PHOTO: Bob Jackson. Highlands senior Cooper Schwalbach (5) runs onto the field before the game with senior wide receiver Logan Guy (4) holding the United States flag. Schwalbach finished the season rushing for more than 900 yards.
The ending was painful no doubt.

This program ranked second in the country in all-time wins at 895-252-26 hates losing, period. A 36-0 shut-out loss to the arch-rival and defending Class 5A state champion Covington Catholic Colonels on the road in the region championship added to that frustration.

While they were not able to take down the Colonels in either meeting, this Highlands Bluebirds football team righted the ship and put the program back on the map. The Bluebirds were consistently ranked in the top five in the Associated Press poll and finished fourth in the final one.

Highlands also recorded its first winning season since its last region championship in 2015 and its first 10-win season since 2014. The Bluebirds had to overcome a rough day on a grass field to beat undefeated Anderson County, 14-10 last week to make it to the region championship.

"It's just like I told them out there after the game," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "The score on the board after this game doesn't change anything. Nothing changes what happened leading up to this point. You can't take away what they've done as a team, what they've done as individuals, the extra work they've put in, the bonds they've made, picking each other up, battling through injuries, battling through hard practices, battling through frustrations. There's just story after story after story of guys who had many opportunities to say, 'Okay. This isn't for me' and they kept sticking with it and ended up being better for it."

The biggest key to the turnaround from 6-6 last year and 3-8 two years ago was the mastering of the 3-5 defense. Teams had to earn thing offensively against the Bluebirds. It was the same for CovCath for the most part in the first half before the offensive line took over in the second half. The Colonels led just 7-0 at halftime.

Their three losses came to teams that are playing in state semifinal contests the day after Thanksgiving. Scott County takes on Madison Central in the Class 6A state semifinals on Friday. Scott County beat Highlands, 28-7 in Fort Thomas on Aug. 31 on a lightning-shortened game.

But Highlands did record wins over several teams with winning records. The Bluebirds handed Simon Kenton one of its three losses. Highlands also beat 6-5 Campbell County and 8-4 Lexington Catholic in addition to the second-round playoff win at Anderson County.

Unfortunately for Highlands, offensive inconsistency hurt all season, especially in big games. The passing game did not turn out to be consistent enough to open up holes for senior running back Cooper Schwalbach and sophomore Joe Buten.

Highlands graduates 23 seniors. But a good core returns for next season. The Bluebirds return three starting offensive linemen in addition to Buten and wide receivers Hunter Ahlfeld, Ethan Houze and Adam Weyer. Junior quarterback Collin Hollingsworth appears ready to lead the offensive after guiding the Highlands junior varsity to a 7-2 mark.

The defense returns the likes of junior linebackers Brycen Huddleston, Mason Schwalbach and sophomore Mason South. Two solid defensive linemen in juniors Zach Lewin and Conner Zell return along with sophomore defensive back Jason Noe.

Highlands remains in the same Class 5A, District 5 with Covington Catholic. But replacing Dixie Heights will be Conner, Cooper and Boone County. Highlands last played Conner in 2006.

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