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Highlands overcomes sloppy start to beat Covington Catholic 32-21 at Dennis Griffin Stadium

By Blake Lehmann
NKyTribune sports reporter

Despite a sloppy first quarter where they would give up three turnovers, the Highlands football team came out on the other side of their battle with Covington Catholic with a 32-21 win Friday night, marking their first win in the rivalry since 2015.

With Joe Mixon in attendance at Dennis Griffin Stadium, Charlie Noon and Dawson Hosea would combine for a performance the Bengals running back would be proud of, leading the way for 390 yards of offense on the night, including a 64-yard kick return late in the fourth quarter from Noon that would be the go-ahead score to seal the deal for the Bluebirds.

(Photo by Dale Dawn)

“They showed who they really are tonight,” said Highlands’ head coach Robert Sphire. “We’re our own worst enemy in a lot of ways, but adversity is no longer the master of this program. We may come out on the wrong side of the scoreboard sometimes, but this team will not be broken anymore from that standpoint.”

It was a sloppy first half for both teams as they combined for five total turnovers, with the Colonels taking advantage of the sloppy play first as with five minutes left, Evan Pitzer delivered a 20-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Miller following three consecutive Bluebird drives with a turnover.

After settling for a field goal on the ensuing drive, Highlands would force a turnover of their own off a fumble and take over at their own 31. Then on first down, quarterback Brody Benke would find Noon for a 69-yard touchdown pass to put the Bluebirds ahead 10-7 on the final scoring play of the half.

Business would pick up at the beginning of the third quarter as Highlands would march right down the field following a kick return from Noon to the Highlands 40. Going with a ground-and-pound approach, the Bluebirds would get to the five-yard line before Hosea would hit paydirt, making it 17-7.

But the Colonels wouldn’t back down. Pitzer and Miller would connect once more for a 30-yard touchdown pass to put CovCath within striking distance, and strike they would; as they bled plenty of time off the clock, Owen Leen would take a three-yard run into the end zone to give the Colonels their first and only lead of the ballgame.

(Photo by Dale Dawn)

And it looked like things were headed towards CovCath’s tenth consecutive victory in the rivalry, as Noah Johnson would intercept a pass on the Colonels’ three after what seemed to be an exhausting drive by the Bluebirds. But an intentional grounding call would cost CovCath two points and their possession, leading to Noon’s explosive kickoff return that put Highlands back in front.

An emphatic Sphire commented on how huge both the special teams unit and Noon have been in the Bluebirds’ success this year, stating that the efforts of both have been vital in setting the tone for the offense when they need it the most.

“Special teams have been huge for us this year, especially because we’ve flipped fields and flipped the momentum so much,” Sphire said of his team’s performance. “And Charlie is just a pitbull out there, he’s just a football-playing dog.”

From that point on, Highlands wouldn’t look back as their defense forced a big three-and-out on CovCath’s next drive, taking time off the clock with a couple of big runs from Noon, then Hosea’s second touchdown run on a 32-yard handoff would be all she wrote.

The victory marks the Bluebirds’ seventh consecutive victory after starting the year 0-2 against South Warren and Simon Kenton. CovCath falls to 6-2 with the loss, their first since Aug. 19 against Elder.

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