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Highlands High School hires Franklin County mentor Eddie James as next football head coach

By Don Owen
NKyTribune sports editor

Eddie James, who guided Franklin County to the Class 4A state finals this season, has accepted the job as the football head coach at Highlands High School.

Multiple sources on Friday night from both Highlands and Franklin County said James would make a decision this weekend on whether to accept the offer. James told the Franklin County players Saturday he was accepting the Highlands coaching position.

Highlands will officially introduce James at 1 p.m. Sunday during a press conference at the Highlands Fieldhouse.

James is considered one of Kentucky’s top football coaches and has built Franklin County into a Class 4A power.

Eddie James, who guided Franklin County to the Class 4A state finals this season, has accepted the job as the football head coach at Highlands. (Nick Moore, 44 Sports Photography)

James led Franklin County to a 9-2 record this fall. The Flyers advanced to the Class 4A state championship game and dropped a 31-28 decision in overtime to Boyle County.

The previous week, Franklin County stunned defending Class 4A state champion Johnson Central by a 20-12 score on the road in Paintsville. Franklin County also collected a 42-6 win at perennial powerhouse Louisville Central in the second round of the playoffs this season.

“The Highlands Bluebirds represent one of the true blue blood programs in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and a gold standard when it comes to excellence,” James said in a released statement. “I would only leave Franklin County for a job of this magnitude, and I am very eager to work with the great student-athletes in Fort Thomas to restore a championship tradition on the football field.”

After conducting a comprehensive search, Highlands High School principal Matt Bertasso said James’ clear and energetic vision for what Highlands football will embody, both on and off the field, separated him as the ideal candidate to walk the sidelines.

“Eddie James sees the football program as an extension of his own family,” Bertasso said. “He is about championship-building, for sure. But he also uses football to teach life lessons that will help mold our students into fine people long after they leave the program. hat’s very important to us.”

James graduated from Franklin County High School in 2005 and held positions as an assistant coach at FCHS and at Boyle County before his promotion to head coach at Franklin County in 2017. James holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kentucky and teaches special education. James also received his Rank 1 in Special Education from University of the Cumberlands.

“Highlands has a long and proud history of competing at the highest levels and Eddie brings with him the coaching acumen and experience needed to bring this kind of achievement back to our football program,” athletic director Wes Caldwell said. “Hiring Eddie represents a critical investment in our entire athletic department, and his energy will galvanize our community. We believe a lot of great Friday nights are in store for the Bluebirds.”

James owns a 35-12 record in four seasons as the head coach at Franklin County. He led the Flyers to a 10-3 record in 2018, followed by an 11-1 mark in 2019. Franklin County’s only defeat in 2019 was an 18-7 setback to Louisville Central in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

James will inherit a Highlands program that finished 5-6 this season. He replaces Brian Weinrich, who compiled a 51-36 record in seven seasons as the Bluebirds head coach.

Weinrich led Highlands to the Class 4A state championship during his first season in 2014. The Bluebirds posted a 13-2 record and defeated district rival Covington Catholic twice en route to the 2014 state title.

During the next six seasons, though, Highlands compiled a record of 38-34. The Bluebirds also suffered a pair of losing seasons (3-8 in 2016 and 5-6 in 2020) and never challenged for a state title.

Highlands also dropped seven consecutive games against CovCath, which has emerged as a perennial powerhouse in Class 5A. The Bluebirds have not defeated CovCath since 2015, when they knocked off the Colonels twice.

Don Owen is sports editor of the Northern Kentucky Tribune. Contact him at don@nkytrib.com and follow him on Twitter at @dontribunesport.

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