Richmond, KY- The last time Dale Mueller and the Bluebirds took a trip down Interestate-75 the circumstances were much the same. An even record, a tough loss the week before and bad weather were all interesting motifs in both games.
Going into the match-up with the state’s 10th ranked team in 4A, the Bluebirds were still licking their wounds from a beating they received from St. Frances-Desales last week.
The Birds have been outscored 138-36 in their three losses.
Head coach Dale Mueller must have found the right words to say to his team. The Bluebirds looked like they didn’t know they had just lost three of their last four games.
Five minutes into the first quarter, after forcing the Indians to punt on their first two possessions, the Birds put together a long drive filled with a mix of formations and a balanced barrage of passing and running plays. Balance is something this Bluebirds team has been hoping for all season.
Sophomore running back Zack Hurtt capped off the drive with a 15-yard plunge behind the great blocking from the big guys up front.
“It’s always been we do one thing or the other really well,” Guidugli said. “Either we pass the ball awesome, run the ball hard or our defense swarms. Tonight, we put all of that together.”
Senior quarterback Chase Cecil finally broke out of his shell going 15 of 22 passing for 272 yards, one touchdown and an interception on the night. His favorite target was senior tight end Ben Guidugli who caught seven passes for 176 yards. Cecil also found senior Ben Wells for a 9-yard touchdown pass and senior receiver Nathan Schiesler for an 18-yard score.
With 8:41 remaining in the first half, the Birds faced a third and long situation deep in Indian territory. Cecil dropped back to pass, stepped up in the pocket and hit Schiesler in the front right corner of the endzone to put the Birds up 14-0 after the extra point.
Just 37 seconds later, head coach Kenny Turner and his Indians answered.
Indians sophomore quarterback Chaz Hope handed the ball off to senior running back Paul Warford who proceeded to scamper for a 20-yard gain inside the Birds’ 40-yard line. The next play Hope found receiver Junior Skepple down the right sideline behind coverage. Skepple hauled in the pass and raced into the end zone to cut the deficit to seven.
Hope finished the game 7 for 17 with 172 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Bluebirds then scored 23 unanswered points to take control of the game for good.
Jordan Kramer, Ben Wells and Jordan Bridgett all scored touchdowns and Drew Bathiany added a 31-yard field goal.
Bridgette took an end around 54 yards almost untouched and into the endzone after out sprinting the Indians’ Mathis to the goalline.
Ronnie Letcher added a 67-yard run late in the game for the Indians, but it was too little too late.
The Indians did get the ball back with 45 seconds left but had no timeouts remaining and couldn’t hold back the pressure of the Birds defensive front.
Two consecutive sacks, one by senior Michael Pryse and sophomore Ben Koester, ended all hopes of an Indian rally.
Highlands finished with 524 yards of total offense. They gained 272 yards through the air and 252 on the ground. They dominated time-of-possession as well. The Birds held the ball for 30 out of the 48 minutes in the game.
Next week the Birds will open district play when the Grant County Braves visit David Cecil Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Jake Donelan is a broadcaster for Northernkentuckysports.com. If you would like to contact him send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “NKY SPORTS.”