G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
FORT THOMAS —
Only one visiting football team has left the vaunted David Cecil Memorial Stadium victorious since the start of 2007.
The Boyd County Lions hoped to be the second. They knew it would take their best game of the year and an off night from the Highlands Bluebirds.
It did not happen as the Bluebirds dominated the Lions, 56-14, in the second straight first round Class 4A playoff battle between the teams. Fourth-ranked Highlands won last year’s contest 63-7 on its way to a fifth consecutive state championship and 21st overall.
The Bluebirds (10-1) improved to 83-3 since the start of 2007 while Boyd County’s season ends at 5-6 for the second straight season. Highlands’ lone loss of the regular season came to visiting Cincinnati Elder, 38-24, two weeks ago that saw the end of Highlands’ 44-game home winning streak.
The balanced Bluebirds outgained the Lions (5-6) 448-268 in total offense. That included 264-105 through the air. Highlands’ balance makes it tough to prepare for in a week because it has passed a lot in some games and run a lot in others.
“When you play a team like this, all you can do is focus on what you can do,” said Boyd County coach Ray Brooks. “You can’t get worried about Highlands is going to do this or Highlands is going to do that. I’m so proud of the kids (overall). All you can do is work hard.”
Jaylen Hayes led the Bluebirds with three carries for 115 yards, all for touchdowns in the second quarter. He bounced off tacklers on two of the runs.
Highlands quarterbacks Donovan McCoy and Drew Houliston picked apart the Boyd County secondary. McCoy completed 8 of 9 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns and Houliston completed 8 of 13 for 144 yards and two touchdowns. McCoy also rushed for another score.
The Bluebirds led 21-0 after the first quarter. But Boyd County did gain some hope to start the second quarter when Billy McCoy completed a 50-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Barnwell. That cut the margin to 21-7 before Highlands scored 28 in a row to go up 49-7 at halftime.
Despite the score, Boyd County did not stop playing hard. Reid Dearfield led the Lions with 67 yards rushing and a touchdown and Billy McCoy completed 7 of 13 passes for 105 yards, a touchdown and one interception. Barnwell added two receptions for 55 yards.
The Lions graduate 13 seniors.