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2018 Prep Football Previews: Highlands senior doing whatever he can to restore team’s winning tradition

The NKyTribune will be featuring each of the 21 high school football teams in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties leading up to the first games of the 2018 season on Aug. 17. We will then provide focused coverage of our local teams throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Highlands football player Austin King missed a full week of preseason practice earlier this month because he was attending the Governor’s Scholar Program at Morehead State University.

While he was away, however, King said he lifted weights or worked out at the campus recreation center after the daily educational sessions. He didn’t want to slack off his training since he was voted a senior team captain.

Highlands senior Austin King, No. 6, played tight end and wide receiver for the Bluebirds last season. (Photo by Allen Ramsey, dwcphoto.com)

“I know that we are surrounded by many supporters throughout our community and it wouldn’t be right to give anything less than our best,” he said.

King is one of several starters returning from the Highlands team that posted a 6-6 record last season. That was a step forward for the Bluebirds, who finished 3-8 one year earlier.

But the Highlands football program has such a proud winning tradition that anything less than making a serious run for a state championship gets lost in the shadow of previous success.

“It’s been tough,” King said of the last couple of seasons. “Obviously, whether you like it or not, you’re going to hear the noise around town, and we certainly understand it. But that’s not what we want to hear this year.”

King, who is also the senior class president, is willing to do whatever he can to help the Bluebirds become a Class 5A state title contender once again.

“He’s one of many on our team like that, but he’s definitely something special,” said head coach Brian Weinrich. “We’re excited with the leadership they’re all providing.”

Last year, King was a tight end and wide receiver on offense. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior also played on the punt and kickoff return teams and he was the holder on placekicks.

The top two pass receivers on last year’s team graduated and the third one, Grady Cramer, has moved into the quarterback position. That means King and fellow seniors Nate Roberts and Ben Sisson are the veterans in this year’s receiving corps.

Austin King

“We’ve got three guys who we think are going to create some issues with Austin and Nate being big bodies who look like tight ends and Ben Sisson being every bit of 6-foot-6,” said Weinrich. “With the three of them on the field, we feel like that could really give our quarterback some viable options in terms of mismatches.”

Last season, King started out as a blocking tight end and then moved to wide receiver. He ended up catching just 10 passes for 96 yards, but he worked hard during the offseason to improve on those numbers.

“I would say I like being a receiver more (than tight end), but they’re obviously both important and I’m willing to do whatever helps us score more points than the other team by the end of each game,” King said.

That team-first attitude is prevalent among the Highlands players, according to Weinrich. During spring practice, several of them were willing to switch positions to fill vacancies on the offensive line.

“We had an offensive linemen focused spring and we went from not having many to having good depth from (grades) 10 through 12,” Weinrich said. “We’re excited where we are now.”

If the offensive line comes together, Highlands could be a high-scoring team once again. Cramer has some varsity experience at quarterback and last year’s leading rusher, Cooper Schwalbach, is also returning.

Weinrich said the defense also has a solid group of returning starters. That puts the Bluebirds in a good position to restore the program’s winning tradition this season.

“Every day we have that mindset to sort of bring it back and produce for the people who support us the most,” King said.

2017 season: 6-6 record, lost in second round of Class 5A playoffs.
District: Class 5A, District 5 with Covington Catholic, Dixie Heights.
Head coach: Brian Weinrich (30-22 in four seasons at Highlands).

Aug. 17 – COOPER, 7 p.m..
Aug. 24 – at Campbell County, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 – SCOTT COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 – at Ryle, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 – at Lexington Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 – SIMON KENTON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 – at Dixie Heights, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 – COVINGTON CATHOLIC, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 – GREENWOOD, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 – BOONE COUNTY, 7 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:


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