|G. Michael Graham Photo. Zach Harris (45) scores his second of three touchdowns in the Class 4A state championship game Saturday at Western Kentucky University.|
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
The 31 seniors of the Highlands Bluebirds football team may have been disappointed to not win four state championships like the previous three did.
But the overall body of work will not be forgotten. Highlands finished 56-4 during that time. Only Belfrey and Mayfield have played as many games in Kentucky during that time.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator. “They’re men you can count on. Their future wives know they can count on them and their kids are going to look up to them. They’re sad they lost a high school football game. But in reality, we embrace adversity. This isn’t the worst thing that is going to happen in their life. It’s upsetting for them now. But ultimately, you have to embrace adversity and go on as men.”
The seniors are Drew Houliston, Luke Brockett, Brandon Hergott, Zach Harris, Tyler Schweitzer, Bryan Saunders, Thomas Wrobleski, Seth Hope, Johnny Kemplin, Evan Allen, Michael Ayers, Jackson Bardo, Connor Bleser, Joey Cochran, Brian Condon, Matt Farney, Austin Greene, Ryan Greene, Jaylen Hayes, Braden Hicks, Kendall Kramer, Joey Kruse, Sean Lemmons, Sam Little, Avery McDaniel, Nathan Merkle, Jake Parker, Alex Shadle, Kyle Thurston, Nick True and Scott Turner
Mueller favors six classes:
Many former Highlands players such as Gino Guidugli describe the current system as diluted. Some 0-10 teams like Clinton County last year and even 1-9 teams make the playoffs out of four-team districts. But Mueller said the increase in classes has led to more players coming out for football across Kentucky unlike some states.
“The older guys say it was so much tougher when they were there,” Mueller said. “But really going from four classes to six classes hasn’t changed it that much. One thing we’re seeing here is our teams have gotten consistently better. So I really don’t think we’re seeing less competition or a diluted battle in the playoffs.”
The increase took place in 2007. While Highlands dominated Class 5A the first four years and 4A the previous three, Louisville Trinity and Louisville Central won all but one state championship in Class 6A and 3A respectively. Neither made it past the regional finals this year.
Ending High School Career where College will Start:
True, a tight end, played the state championship where he will play college football next season. He committed to Western Kentucky in the fall.
True faced off against two of his future teammates. Collins wide receiver Deandre Farris and linebacker Masai Whyte will also attend Western Kentucky next year.
Another future teammate played in the 5A title game. That’s Bowling Green wide receiver Nacarius Fant.
True has decided not to play basketball this winter. He checked with the school, but can’t graduate early to go down to Western Kentucky like Conner quarterback Drew Barker did with the University of Kentucky.
No NKy winner for first time since 2003:
Both Highlands and Newport Central Catholic came up empty in their bids for repeats in their respective classes.
This marks the first time a Northern Kentucky team has not won a state championship since 2003. Beechwood finished runner-up to Danville (42-7) in the Class A title game that year and Highlands fell 44-10 to Boyle County in the AAA title game that season.