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Highlands Bluebirds 2014 Football Preview


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For the first time in seven years, the Highlands Bluebirds will enter the season as not defending state champions, but state runner up. The Bluebirds lost to Collins 37-34 in the 2013 state championship after winning 6 consecutive titles.


The biggest storyline of the off season, however, was the retirement of long time head coach Dale Mueller. New head coach Brian Weinrich talked about the transition.


" It's been pretty smooth. This is my 20th year at Highlands and I was with Dale for 19 of his 20 years. I've been here my whole life so this is nothing new to me. It's a really smooth transition for the players and coaches because we're all really familiar with eachother."


Weinrich will take over a team with a lot of questions from outsiders after losing one of the deepest and best senior classes in Bluebird history. Still, Weinrich maintains that the Birds won't miss a beat despite all of the off season storylines.


" (Offensively) I don't think there's necessarily that one guy," Weinrich said. " We've got several running backs, several wide receivers, several tight ends, and even at the quarterback position we've got a couple guys. I think it's going to be spread out more in terms of personnel."


One of the biggest reasons for the huge offensive numbers from last year's team was the amount of weapons that then quarterback Drew Houliston was able to use with confidence and Coach Weinrich thinks that this year's team will maintain the same philosophy in spreading the ball around.


" If you look at last year's team we probably had 6 or 7 guys with 20 or more catches and we're going to try to follow that same trend."


While Houliston was the center of the Highlands offense last season, this year that role will go to quarterback Beau Hoge, who finished with 735 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 36 of 56 passing in a back up role on last year's team.


" He played receiver and quarterback in some back up situations last year for Drew (Houliston) but he's had a tremendous off season," Weinrich said. " He's going to give us a lot of options with what we can do."


Highlands had to deal with losing one of the best receivers in the state in Jensen Feggins, who is now at Warren Central after his father took over as head coach, but the Bluebirds will still feature an impressive group of receivers out wide with the return of Alex Venneman, Justin Weyer, and tight end Jack Telek.


Telek, who was injured most of last season, will give the Bluebirds a big physical presence both on the line and in the passing game.


" He was injured most of last year but he's come a long way and is getting a lot of looks from colleges," Said Weinrich. " He's got great speed and great hands so he can make a tremendous impact."


Venneman, who finished with 36 catches, 890 yards, and 11 touchdowns last season while also winning the 200 meter state championship in track, will return as the Bluebirds deep threat and big play specialist.


" He really came on for us last year," Weinrich said. " He is absolutely one of the fastest kids I've ever seen. He won the state 200 meter championship without even practice. He played baseball and ran track on the week ends."


At the running back position, it will once again feature three backs in Griffin Urlage, Josh Watson, and Nick Kendall. Urlage, who is mostly known for his defensive prowess, will move to offense to give the Birds another dynamic in the running game and out in the flats.


" All of those guys are speed plus so we feel like we're in pretty good shape offensively."


One of the staples of the Weinrich personality is his intensity and even though former Highlands grad Zach Deaton took over his position on the staff, Weinrich feels the defense won't lose that mentiality.


" I think our defense is going to pick up right where we left off," Said Weinrich. " A lot of guys like to run around and make plays. By the end of the season last year we had some injuries so some younger guys filled in which is only going to help us this year."


Leading the Bluebird defense this season will be a pair of three year secondary players in Brady Murray and Andrew Abner.


"Those secondary guys have just had tremendous off seasons along with Kyle Martin, Grayson Heck, Austin Beal, and James Hinkle at safety."


Up front on the defensive line has been a process but Daniel Kramer has been moved from linebacker to defensive line to .


"We're trying to get some depth," Weinrich explained. " We had to take a couple guys and move them to offense which has only opened up opportunities for other guys. we really think he (Kramer) can be a disruptive force."


At linebacker the Birds return Rocco Pangallo and Patrick Schoepf so should be strong up the middle.


As has been the case for as long as Dale Mueller was the head coach, Coach Weinrich's first schedule will be loaded with quality opponents.


" The old A.D head coach was not kind," Said Weinrich with a smile when talking about this year's schedule. " It is what it is but we feel it's about as tough as you can play around here."


That schedule will feature games against John Hardin, Paducah Tilghman, at Warren Central, as well as Elder and the annual scrimmage against Louisville Trinity, on top of the district game against another 4A state title contender this year in Covington Catholic.


"We're going to be battle tested. That's for sure."


While most coaches and programs will come in to new situations with moderate expectations, nothing changes for the Bluebirds with the head coaching change.


" I don't know they (expectations) are outside of here and I really don't care to be honest," Said Weinrich. " All we're trying to do each day is to get better and have each guy get better at something else. If every guy can just get better at something every day, then we're better and whatever these guys expectations are we can get there."


Ah...the old Dale comment to close out the start of the new era of Highlands football. Can Weinrich's bunch continue the streak of state championship appearances and bring the hardware back to it's old Fort Thomas home? Or was Collins state championship last year the start of a new era for teams who share the same class as the Bluebirds? How good can Beau Hoge be and can Venneman have another stellar season without a go to receiver like Feggins opposite of him?


So many questions surrounding the Highlands football team this year. But honestly, for those outside of Fort Thomas, I think that is how most wish it was for the past 7 years. Buckle up and enjoy the ride Highlands faithful. A new era just might start with a bang.




Aug 29, 14 Campbell County away 7:00 PM

Sep 12, 14 John Hardin home 7:30 PM

Sep 20, 14 Paducah Tilghman home 3:00 PM

Sep 26, 14 Covington Catholic home 7:00 PM

Oct 3, 14 Harrison County away 7:30 PM

Oct 31, 14 Warren Central away 7:00 PM


(The full schedule with dates has not been released yet but other games include Holmes, Bryan Station, and Cincinnati Elder)



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That is confusing. I'm watching in practice and Coach Deaton is not the D coordinator. To me it's looks like he isn't. Coach Jones calls the D from all accounts from what I've seen so far. I'm thinking that Coach Weinrich meant to say a coaching spot opened up but hey, who knows. Either way, we are on good hands all around!

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Here is the full schedule. Great article Walter!


August 15 Trinity Home (Scrimmage) 7:00


August 22 St. Xavier Cincinnati (Scrimmage) Away 7:00


August 29 Campbell County Away 7:00


September 5 Bryan Station Away 7:30


September 12 John Hardin Home 7:30


September 20 Paducah Tilghman Home 3:00


September 26 Covington Catholic Home 7:00


October 3 Harrison County Away 7:00


October 11 Christopher Columbus Miami, FL Home 1:00


October 17 Holmes Away 7:00


October 24 Elder Home 7:30


October 31 Warren Central Away 8:00

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