Somerset, KY -After two weeks of battling two of the top football programs the nation, the Highlands Bluebirds were back on the smiling side of the scoreboard. But the Bluebirds had to battle more than just the opposing team.
If anything else, Friday was a good test to see how focused this Highlands team is because it was far from a usual night on the prep gridiron.
First, the players and coaches were excused early from classes to allow them ample time to get to the remote Reservation at Southwestern High School. The more than three hour drive would leave anyone stiff, even if ridden in the luxury of Executive Charter buses.
From there the 'Birds began a usual pre-game warm-up which led into what seemed to be a normal first quarter.
As a result of winning the opening toss, the 'Birds got a chance to redeem themselves after an embarrassing 23 yards of total offensive the week before. But it didn't appear anything was going to get any better for coach Dale Mueller and his team when they were forced to punt on their first few possessions.
Early on, it seemed the game was going to be decided by defense. The Bluebirds thought the same thing. After senior defensive back Nathan Schiesler intercepted Warrior's quarterback Mike Jones' pass, the 'Birds offense started on their own 45-yard line.
Mueller put the ball in the hands of sophomore running back Zack Hurtt.
With just 2:06 left in the first quarter Hurtt put the first points on the board with a 12-yard scamper.
The quarter ended with the Warriors putting together an impressive drive inside of Highlands territory. As the horn sounded to end the quarter, Mother Nature let out a roar of her own.
A storm had slowly made its way into the area and the referee was forced to call a lightning delay.
As the clouds settled over the Reservation, flashes of lightning were aplenty. As stated in the rules, teams must wait 30 minutes after the latest lightning flash to continue game play. After 45 minutes of waiting, officials decided it was safe to play and the Warriors continued their drive.
Southwestern was led by junior running backs Wes Hampton and Ryan Smart. It took the Warriors almost half of the second quarter to complete their drive as they finished with a fullback dive to Ryan Welch.
Unfortunately for the Warrior faithful, that's all they would have to cheer about.
The 'Birds responded just four minutes later on a 1-yard plunge by Hurtt again to take back the lead 14-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, the 'Birds recovered a muffed kick.
In less than a minute the Highlands offense found their way to the endzone again.
But, it wasn't as easy as it sounded.
The 'Birds offensive line was tagged for two holding penalties and a false start.
On third and 35, senior quarterback Chase Cecil found his favorite target, senior tight end Ben Guidugli, for a 65-yard completion that set up another Hurtt touchdown. This time he had to do a little more work as he found his way to six points after fighting through 17-yards of Warrior defenders.
The play ended the scoring for both teams in the first half.
The second half was less eventful as the 'Birds proved to be too much for the Warriors. The 'Birds Jordans, Jordan Kramer and Jordan Bridgett, took over touchdown responsibilities for Hurtt in the second half.
Kramer scored on a 40-yard sweep almost untouched near the end of the third quarter and Bridgett had a 17-yard scurry of his own.
Not to be outdone, the 'Birds defense set up many of the offensive touchdowns by causing turnovers. They caused four turnovers and held the Warriors to a measly 100 yards of total offense on 49 plays from the line. They did give up 12 first downs, but many were a result of penalty yardage. They finished the night with 17 penalties for 153 yards.
Cecil completed 4 of his 7 passes for 173 yards and Hurtt ran 15 times for 102 yards and three touchdowns. Hurtt became the third Highlands running back to eclipse the century mark in a game this season.
Next week Highlands play host to another Ohio powerhouse when Columbus St. Francis-Desales invades David Cecil Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30.
Jake is a broadcaster for NKYsports.com. If you would like to contact him, you may do so by e-mail @ email@example.com, make the subject NKYSPORTS.