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Highlands has it going as Bluebirds hit on every part of the game in blanking South Oldham, 43-0

By Don Weber

NKyTribune sports reporter

The last thing that a running football team in Kentucky ever wants to see is a running clock.

Because that means you’re trailing by 36 points. And without the ability to throw the ball as you run the classic triple-option offense, you’re pretty much cooked. And the game becomes so much shorter.

Which explains where a South Oldham team with a pretty good pedigree found themselves at the end of the first half on their trip to Fort Thomas for a Class 5A first-round playoff game against No. 1 Highlands.

Highlands Bluebirds on the way to 43-0 win over South Oldham (Photo by Dan Weber/NKyTribune)

Down 36-0 and down a quarterback and two halfbacks to injuries, a South Oldham team that was 6-4 coming in here was headed fast to 6-5 as the Bluebirds took advantage of everything the Dragons offered them – like four lost fumbles.

And maybe a hesitancy to hit with a now 10-1 Highlands team that pitched a 43-0 shutout on the way to a possible three more home games at historic David Cecil Memorial Stadium.

“That was a quality program,” Highlands Coach Bob Sphire said. “Before getting moved to their new district, they’d won the district seven of the last eight years.

“I was really pleased with our physicality,” Sphire said. “They really hit out there . . . and we tackled well . . . and didn’t turn the ball over. That’s how you win in the playoffs.”

Just one example. Leading 7-0 on a perfectly executed Brody Benke to Carson Class 32-yard slip screen, Highlands had the ball again to start the second quarter.

Highlands Coach Bob Spire (Photo by Dan Weber)

And from their own 36-yard line, they gave it to 185-pound senior Cam Giesler, who took it seven yards right before zeroing in on and running over – with a loud collision — a South Oldham DB. The next play, almost the same scenario, for 14 yards as Giesler ran over the same DB with the same collision sound. Only this time, the DB did not get up. Not for a number of seconds before he was helped off the field.

Then on the third straight play, from the South Oldham 43, Highlands gave it to Giesler again. Only this time he headed left and wasn’t looking for anything but the end zone, which he quickly arrived at to make it 14-0 with the PAT.

To recap, that was a three-play, all-Cam Giesler drive for 64 yards and the TD.

“Two plays in a row, he did that,” Sphire said of the way Giesler inspired the Bluebirds on the way to a second-round matchup with the biggest upset-pullers of the first round – the Dixie Heights Colonels, who whacked favored Woodford County, 60-14 Friday in Versailles. Highlands pounded Dixie, 51-21, five weeks ago in Edgewood.

As the fans were exiting Friday, the announcer reminded them of the possibility of an all-home-game run to the playoff finals here in Fort Thomas.

“That would be huge,” said Highlands senior quarterback/receiver Brody Benke, a 6-4, 223-pounder who threw for two TDs and caught another.

He liked “the one to (Adam) Surrey,” he said of the 14-yarder in the first half for a 28-0 lead on the way to a 36-0 halftime edge and the running clock.

What about his own TD catch, the next time Highlands touched the ball after one of the four South Oldham fumbles the Birds recovered? All Benke could think of on the sky-high 27-yard toss from sophomore Rio Litmer was how “I’d never been that wide open.” Litmer hit on all seven of his passes for 98 yards and two TDs.

And in the game’s most spectacular play, Highlands senior Davis Hinegardner took the ball 70 yards on a well-blocked wide receiver reverse that had him tip-toeing down the right sideline against South Oldham defenders who could not catch him.

Although in a peek into the future, Highlands fans also got to see freshman Tayden Lorenzen, son of the late “Hefty Lefty” Jared Lorenzen, complete a 57-yard bomb in the second half as one of four Highlands quarterbacks to play in this game.

Hard to blame South Oldham for being a bit discombobulated. They’d already lost top running back Jacob Acevedo to an earlier injury and would soon lose quarterback Nick Hamilton on the last play before halftime.

That was a first half that saw Highlands score 36 points on just 15 plays, with three one-play TD drives in a 262-yard half.

Highlands was ready to hit on this night and Sphire was pleased at how his team came in here.

But it’s only the first step. “See you at 9 a.m. Saturday,” Sphire told his team with a smile. “Keep lifting . . . keep getting better.”

Score by quarter
South Oldham (6-5) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Highlands (10-1) 7 29 7 0 – 43

Scoring Summary

Highlands: Class 32 pass from Benke (Nickelman PAT)
Highlands: Giesler 43 run (Nickelman PAT)
Highlands: 70 run Hinegardner (Nickelman PAT)
Highlands: Surrey 14 pass from Benke (Nickelman PAT)
Highlands: Benke 27 pass from Litmer (Nickelman PAT)
Highlands: Jackson 19 pass from Litmer (Nickelman PAT)

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