By Terry Boehmker
FORT THOMAS, Ky. – The Highlands Bluebirds are one win away from adding to their high school football bragging rights.
Highlands whipped Lexington Catholic, 61-28, in the semifinals of the Class 4A state playoffs on Friday to earn a spot in next week’s championship final at Western Kentucky University.
If the Bluebirds win the title game against Collins on Friday, they will become the first football program to claim six consecutive Kentucky state championships and they’ll stay in the race with Louisville Trinity for the most overall state titles with 22.
But Highlands senior quarterback Donovan McCoy said those records are not going to be the main thing on his mind when he takes the field at 7 p.m. next Friday in Bowling Green.
“Everyone’s making a big deal out of it being six in a row and if Trinity lost we can go ahead of them,” McCoy said. “But what it’s really all about for us seniors is just this one state title. It’s our senior year and we want to go out with a bang.”
There’s no reason to think the Bluebirds will fizzle out in the state final after watching their explosive 638-yard offensive performance in the semifinal win over Lexington Catholic.
Highlands rushed for 467 yards with McCoy getting 220 on 25 carries and scoring three touchdowns.
Junior running back Zach Harris also scored three times and finished with 110 yards on 24 carries. Senior running back Colin Seidl picked up 129 yards on six carries with most of it coming on touchdown runs of 39 and 62 yards.
Of course, the offensive line deserved much of the credit for the Bluebirds’ impressive rushing statistics.
“We were expecting to throw the ball more (than run), but we were just opening up holes all night,” said Highlands senior tackle Richie Whitford. “The line worked really hard to get to this point and it really paid off (Friday).”
McCoy did have a good night throwing the ball. He completed 9 of 18 passes for 171 yards and one touchdown.
In the final seconds of the first half, McCoy threw a 38-yard pass to senior wide receiver Luke Turner, who was brought down at the 2-yard line. On the next play, McCoy followed a wall of blockers across the goal line and Luke Brockett kicked the extra-point to give Highlands a 35-14 halftime lead.
That touchdown came after Lexington Catholic turned the ball over on downs following a dropped pass by a receiver who had a clear path to the end zone.
“The big transition there at the end of the first half really changed the landscape quite a bit,” said Lexington Catholic coach Bill Letton. “Instead of going into the locker room (at halftime) down seven, we go in down 21. It was a whole different can of worms for us then.”
The Knights did get a touchdown on their first possession of the second half to cut the margin to 14, 35-21. But Highlands scored 19 unanswered points to go ahead, 54-21 early in the fourth quarter.
“It was just a great game,” said Highlands coach Dale Mueller. “I mean they executed so well I’m just real proud of our guys.”
Lexington Catholic finished with 325 total yards. The team leader was sophomore quarterback Reese Ryan, who had 53 yards rushing and 162 yards passing. Junior running back Marcelis Logan rushed for 96 yards and scored twice.
Highlands was penalized 10 times for 120 yards. Two penalties called against the defense came on consecutive plays and put Lexington Catholic in position to score a touchdown that made it 21-14.
There was another controversial call during Lexington Catholic’s scoring drive in the third quarter. While one official signaled that Highlands had recovered a fumble on a lateral pass, another ruled it an incomplete forward pass.
But the Bluebirds moved the ball so well on offense that none of those penalties affected the outcome of the game.
“We didn’t think we were going to come out and run for over 400 yards,” McCoy said. “We were thinking we were going to come out (passing) and fire it around. But you just got to take what they’re giving you and go with what’s working, and that’s what we did.”
LEX. CATHOLIC 7-7-7-7–28
at HIGHLANDS 13-22-12-14–61
H-Seidl 39 run (Brockett kick)
LC-Mitchell 6 run (Jacoby kick)
H-McCoy 13 run (kick failed)
H-Harris 4 run (Brockett pass from McCoy)
LC-Ryan 12 run (Jacoby kick)
H-McCoy 10 run (Brockett kick)
H-McCoy 2 run (Brockett kick)
LC-Logan 1 run (Jacoby kick)
H-Christian 30 pass from McCoy (kick failed)
H-Seidl 62 run (pass failed)
H-Harris 9 run (Brockett kick)
LC-Logan 15 run (Jacoby kick)
H-Harris 9 run (Brockett kick)
RECORDS: Highlands 13-1, Lexington Catholic 11-3.
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