Many coaches point to the weight room in the preseason for a springboard into the football season.
Bob Sphire continues to do so in Week 7 of the high school football season.
Highlands made a “weight room” statement on Friday night with a 51-21 victory over Dixie Heights in Edgewood, finishing with 453 rushing yards.
“We couldn’t run the ball at all when I got here. That goes once again back to the weight room. I know I keep saying that. But it’s the God’s honest truth,” Sphire said. “That’s where the secret sauce is to be able to play the kind of physical style of ball that we were able to play tonight.”
The Bluebirds first 11 plays were run plays. By halftime they had nearly 300 rushing yards, finishing with 8.2 yards per carry. Cameron Giesler had 222 of them, quarterback Brody Benke with 159 and an eye-popping five rushing touchdowns.
The Bluebirds used their physicality at the line of scrimmage all night.
“Offensive line is playing really, really well. We don’t go into a game thinking we’re just going to run the ball, our offense really is diverse to where we can kind of adapt like a chameleon to the circumstances that night,” Sphire said. “Early first drive we had some things going and coach Hayden (Sphire) did a really good job this week of game planning some run schemes versus their pressures that we identified and executed them really really well.”
Dixie Heights just didn’t have an answer defensively, coming in as a pretty solid defense against the run. After scoring on their opening possession, the Colonels simply couldn’t keep up with a Highlands team that’s scored 268 points during their five-game winning streak.
“Couldn’t stop the run tonight,” Colonels coach Pat Burke said. “Thought we had done pretty dang well the whole season on that. Defense played sluggish, not the physical brand of football that we have all year and they just were able to out-physical us and run the ball on us. Just undisciplined defense tonight really.”
Benke’s first of five rushing scores came on the Bluebirds opening drive, a one-yard run to the left end behind his big beefy lineman. Touchdown runs of one, 12, four and 22 followed, the last giving the Bluebirds a 44-14 advantage. He added a throwing TD for good measure, a 23-yard strike to Adam Surrey to get the game to a running clock with 10:39 remaining.
The glory doesn’t all go to the offense this week. A week after giving up 51 points to Cooper, the Bluebirds defense forced two turnovers and made Dixie Heights go three-and-out four times on the night.
“They’re a tempo team that feeds off first downs and being able to get them off the field early and often was huge,” Sphire said.
The Colonels got momentum before halftime, Armani Gregg’s one-yard score capitalizing a Tyson Beach 83-yard kickoff return to the Bluebirds 11 to make it 30-14 at the break.
Highlands seized the momentum quickly after a fumble recovery, score and then executed an onside kick to perfection. Suddenly it was 44-14 and the Colonels Homecoming night was ruined, on the field at least.
Gregg hit Nolan Goetz late for a 52-yard touchdown pass, their second connection for a score on the night, the first coming in the first quarter on a 44-yard strike.
The Colonels finished with 276 total yards, Gregg throwing for 172. They’ll look to rebound next week at Conner on Thursday night.
“That’s not the product that we put on the field tonight. That doesn’t define us moving forward. We’ve got a long season ahead, the rest of the district to go and we’re going to bounce back, make the corrections and we’re going to get after it next week,” Burke said.
The Bluebirds amassed 572 yards, Benke adding 114 with his arm. At 2-0 in district play, the Bluebirds are in the driver’s seat in the Class 5A, 6th District. Up next is Boone County in Fort Thomas on Friday.
“Our goals are way out ahead of us, but the process is within every moment of what we’re doing. We just got to keep getting better every day, it’s not about our opponent. It’s about us,” Sphire said.
BLUEBIRDS 51, COLONELS 21
HIGHLANDS — 13-17-14-7 — 51
DIXIE HEIGHTS — 7-7-0-7 — 21
(H) Benke 1-yard run (9:51) Kick failed
(DH) Gregg 44-yard pass to Goetz (4:12) Kohls kick
(H) Benke 1-yard run (4:12) Nickelman kick
(H) Benke 12-yard run (9:11) Nickelman kick
(H) Nickleman 19-yard FG (4:15)
(H) Giesler 19-yard run (:47) Nickelman kick
(DH) Gregg 1-yard run (:13) Kohls kick
(H) Benke 4-yard run (9:09) Nickelman kick
(H) Benke 22-yard run (7:49) Nickelman kick
(H) Benke 23-yard pass to Surrey (10:39) Nickelman kick
(DH) Gregg 52-yard pass to Goetz (3:19) Kohls kick
Passing Yards: Highlands 119 (Benke 6/13 TD, Litmer 1/2) Dixie Heights 172 (Gregg 11/23, 2 TD)
Rushing Yards: Highlands 453 (Giesler 24-222, Benke 19-159, James 9-39, White 3-33), Dixie Heights 104 (Gregg 15-51, Anderson 12-49, Rice 1-4, Beach 1-0)
Receiving: Highlands (Surrey 4-92, Class 1-15, Hinegardner 1-7, Hass 1-5) Dixie Heights (Goetz 2-96, Blank 4-49, Kriger 4-26, Anderson 1-1)
Turnovers: Highlands 1, Dixie Heights 2
Penalties: Highlands 1-5, Dixie Heights 2-10
Records: Highlands (6-1, 2-0), Dixie Heights (2-4, 1-1)