Story Matters

Story Matters

THE Official HHS Football Site

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Highlands Earns Statement Win to Conclude Regular Season

Bluebirds Explodes for Four Goal in First 15 Minutes of Second Half

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior defender Evan Jones (19) and senior Cole Lorenzen (11) get in position on a corner kick.

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The Highlands Bluebirds boys soccer team (16-4-1 overall) wanted nothing more than to earn a huge win entering district tournament play.

In a battle of two teams with deep postseason aspirations, Highlands not only defeated but blitzed the 11th Region's Dunbar Bulldogs (13-3-2) from Lexington's west side, 5-2 at Tower Park on Saturday. The Bulldogs entered the game ranked second in the Commonwealth of Kentucky's MaxPreps rankings and Highlands ranked 11th.

"It's really comforting and it makes us confident because we've grown over these 21 games from where we started," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "They just put it to (Dunbar) from the beginning. It sends a message to our future opponents here nearby and hopefully, some that we'll see along the way. I'm just really proud of how our guys played across the board. We weren't letting ourselves get content with any of the goals that were coming as the second half wore on."

Highlands bounced back from a 5-0 loss on the road Thursday at Cincinnati Wyoming. The Bluebirds have won eight of their last nine games and finished 3-0 against teams from Lexington.

The Bluebirds had 20 shots including 15 on goal to 13 on goal for the Bulldogs. Highlands sophomore goalkeeper Jack Wilson recorded 11 saves.

The weather turned out nice and sunny with some clouds and light rain at one point during the game. But in the second half on the field when it rained, it poured for the Bluebirds. They turned a 1-1 halftime tie into a 5-1 lead in the first 15 minutes of the second half.

"We were actually pretty comfortable with where we were at halftime," Niedert said. "I don't know if I necessarily thought we were going to go up 5-1 with three goals real quick. We didn't feel like we needed to make a whole lot of adjustments. We just needed to continue doing what we were doing. Wyoming kind of exposed something in our attack and we were prepared to adapt for it. When we went up 3-1 against Dunbar, we tried that out and two goals came from it. I'm feel like we're going to be better suited going forward."

It started with a call Niedert said the team felt it should have received, but did not. The Bluebirds kept playing and their leading point-scorer in junior forward Colin Pieper found himself in a one-on-one situation on the right side overpowering the defender and scoring just under two minutes into the second half to put Highlands up for good at 2-1.

"I think Colin adjusted quickly realizing this game can be a little physical," Niedert said. "We like to tell our guys to control what you can. I'm loud on the sidelines. I get it. But at the same time, that's because I'm advocating for these guys. They know that I've got their back. But at the same time, we ultimately aren't going to be the ones that make the calls. We just have to respond to them."

Pieper finished the day with a hat trick of three goals. Pieper has a team-high 15 goals and eight assists for a team-high 44 points.

"We knew how tough (Dunbar) was going to be. We just had to come out strong in the second half," Pieper said. "We knew they had a new (goalkeeper) in goal. We knew what they looked like from the whole first half so we knew what to exploit so we talked about it at halftime. We came out stronger than them."

Pieper scored the lone Highlands goal of the first half with just under 26 left. Senior midfielder Cole Lorenzen played a through ball to him for the score. That marked Lorenzen's first assist of the season. The Bulldogs tied the game with 16:03 left in the half on a corner kick.

Senior Jordan Frisk put in a rebound off the pole from a junior midfielder Caden Schroeder shot to give Highlands a 3-1 advantage. Schroeder has five assists.

Minutes later, the Bluebirds drew a foul just outside the top of the box. Following a fake from a teammate, Pieper put one in for the hat trick giving Highlands a 4-1 advantage.

The final Highlands goal came with 25:34 left in the game. Frisk found junior midfielder Peyton Helminiak for the score that curled into the upper 90. Helminiak has three goals and Frisk 10 assists on the season.

The Bulldogs scored their last goal with 16:09 left in the game. Senior forward Issac Cano scored on a penalty kick. Cano scored team-highs of 20 goals and recorded seven assists for 47 points entering the game. Niedert credited the back line particularly senior Joel Kendall for keeping things simple on Cano.

"We just make sure the defense steps up," said Luke Fedders, Highlands junior defender on defending scoring threats like Cano. "We pressure and cover. If one defender gets beat, there is another one behind him."

Highlands committed 11 fouls in the physical game and had three offsides calls, three corner kicks and one yellow card. Dunbar finished with one yellow card.

The 36th District championship takes place Tuesday at Morscher Field at 5 p.m. The Bluebirds have won five consecutive district titles.

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