A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Highlands defense, special teams offset shaky offensive performance in 27-0 win over Ryle

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

If a football team wins by a big margin after getting only 201 yards in total offense, you can pretty much bet that defense and special teams had an impact on the outcome. That’s what happened Friday when Highlands won its homecoming game against Ryle, 27-0.

The Bluebirds’ special teams recovered a fumbled punt at the 35-yard line to set up the first touchdown and pounced on a blocked punt in the end zone for another score. When the defense forced Ryle to punt from the end zone, the offense took possession at the 33-yard line and scored two plays later.

Ryle sophomore quarterback Luke Worley looses the ball after getting tackled by Highlands senior linebacker Bryson Huddleston. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

A 55-yard breakaway run late in the third quarter set up Highlands’ final touchdown and was responsible for most of the team’s 91 rushing yards.

“Highlands is a good football team and they took advantage of our mistakes,” said Ryle coach Mike Engler. “We never got going (offensively) and every time we turned around we shot our ourselves in the foot.”

Ryle also had two passes intercepted in the fourth quarter and finished with just 97 yards. That overshadowed a good defensive effort by the Raiders, who had six quarterback sacks. They forced the Bluebirds to punt nine times and turn the ball over on downs once.

Highlands senior quarterback Collin Hollingsworth completed 9 of 18 passes for 110 yards and three touchdowns to brace his team’s shaky offensive performance. The Bluebirds finished well below the 382 yards and 36 points per game averages they had going into Friday.

“He just has a great mentality to be quarterback,” Highlands coach Brian Weinrich said of Hollingsworth. “He’s done what he had to do to keep our offense successful and give our team a chance to win. He doesn’t get flustered and just keeps getting after it. What he’s done a good job of is, OK, that play is over, good or bad, let’s move on.”

After neither team got a first down on its first three offensive possessions of the game, Highlands recovered a fumbled punt at the Ryle 35-yard yard line. Two plays later, Hollingsworth threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Joey Deschler, who was left uncovered and trotted into the end zone.

The Bluebirds had negative yardage on their next two possessions due to quarterback sacks, but the Raiders weren’t able to move the ball either.

Highlands wide receiver Hunter Ahlfeld makes an over-the shoulder catch in the end zone ahead of Ryle defensive back Ryan Planck. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

Ryle ended up punting from its own end zone and Highlands started its next scoring drive at the 33-yard line. Hollingsworth took advantage of the good field position two plays later by connecting with Hunter Ahlfeld on a 21-yard touchdown pass.

“As a whole, the defense feeds into the offense,” Hollingsworth said. “The energy they bring us helps get our guys up and moving fast. That’s our goal, to move the ball fast.”

Highlands had a 14-0 lead at halftime despite a net total of 58 yards on nine possessions. Ryle had just 52 yards and three first downs on eight possessions before the break.

Early in the second half, Ryle had to punt from its own end zone again. The ball was blocked by Conner Zell of Highlands and recovered by teammate Sawyer Depp for a touchdown. The extra-point kick by Brian Haigis gave the Bluebirds a 21-0 lead.

The longest gain of the night came late in the third quarter when Highlands sophomore Griffin Richter exploded through the line and raced 55 yards to the Ryle 4-yard line. On the next play, Ahlfeld caught his second TD pass from Hollingsworth to extend the lead to 27-0.

“We were struggling at first, but you got to keep a level head and just keep moving forward,” Hollingsworth said.

Highlands finished with a 201-97 advantage in net yardage. Richter was the game’s leading rusher with 84 yards on 11 carries. Ryle senior running back Kyle England, who was averaging 132 yards per game, was limited to 55 yards on 19 carries.

The Raiders had to play the game without injured starting quarterback Bradyn Lyons and they ended up with just 37 passing yards. Sophomore quarterback Luke Worley had 11 passing yards and lost a fumble. He was replaced by senior Keenan Stanken, who passed for 26 yards and had two interceptions.

“The biggest thing we’re doing a good job of (on defense) is trusting each other, which allows you to just let loose and play because you don’t have to cover for anybody or worry about anybody else,” coach Weinrich said.

Highlands (4-1) will be going for the 900th win in the history of the program next week when the Bluebirds visit Boyle County (5-0).

RYLE                0  0   0   0 — 0
HIGHLANDS    7  7  13  0 — 27

H — Deschler 18 pass from Hollingsworth (Haigis kick)
H — Ahlfeld 21 pass from Hollingsworth (Haigis kick)
H — Depp recovered blocked punt in end zone (Haigis kick)
H — Ahlfeld 4 pass from Hollingsworth (kick failed)
RECORDS: Highlands 4-1, Ryle 3-2.

High school football scores

Friday’s games
Scott 30, Boone County 8
Ludlow 21, Brossart 6
Covington Catholic 49, Beechwood 3
Bellevue 41, Gallatin County 7
Conner 28, Campbell County 0
Louisville DeSales 40, Cooper 7
Dayton 18, Pendleton County 14
Highlands 27, Ryle 0
Newport 27, Holmes 12
Newport Central Catholic 50, Holy Cross 14
Lloyd 55, Mason County 27
Simon Kenton 39, Taylor County 7
Cincinnati Hills Christian 42, Walton-Verona 7


Recent Posts

Leave a Comment