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Highlands Bluebirds Football Preview 2013
8/1/2013 - by Ryan Roberts
For the past 6 seasons there hasn’t been a more successful football program in the state of Kentucky than the Highlands Bluebirds. During that span, the Birds have won 6 consecutive state championships while compiling a record of 87-3. The Bluebirds are currently tied with Trinity for the most state titles in the state of Kentucky. Needless to say, this year’s team will once again have high expectations from not only the coaching staff but also the community.

"I think each off season gets a little better," said Highlands head coach Dale Mueller. "I think the guys stand on the shoulders of the previous guys. They saw what that group did so they step it up a little more."

It has become common for Dale Mueller to give high praise for each team that comes through, but he believes this year’s squad just might be the best to ever come through Ft. Thomas and play for the Highlands program.

"These guys are a real serious group," said Mueller. "This is a group of guys that just want to come in, get going, and work hard."

The Bluebirds lost 1st team all state quarterback Donovan McCoy from last year’s team, but this offense could be even better led by a talented senior quarterback, Drew Houliston as well as a deep and talented group of receivers and a veteran offensive line.

"I think this year could be the best team to ever play at Highlands," said Mueller. "We are so deep and have so many good football players on both sides of the ball."

Offensively, the Birds return one of the best running backs in the area and state in Zach Harris, who is a 3 year starter, but it is the quarterback Drew Houliston that Dale Mueller spoke about.

"It’s going to be his (Houliston) first year starting at varsity quarterback which is a little bit of a crime really because he’s a guy that could’ve been an all state quarterback his sophomore year. I think Drew could be better than any of them (past quarterbacks) so I’m really fired up about him."

The senior signal caller will have a deep and talented receiving corp to throw to led by Ryan Greene, Jensen Feggins, Luke Brocket, Brandon Hergott, and Justin Weyer, among others.

Houliston isn’t the only one who will have help though, as the Bluebirds return a great group on the offensive line as well to block for Harris and the other running backs.

Scottie Turner, Luke Schweitzer, Brian Saunders, Kendall Kramer, Kyle Thurster, Connor Bleser and Sam Little were all names that Mueller mentioned on the offensive line to go along with talented senior tight end Nick True, who is committed to Western Kentucky University.

"It’s just a great group on offense," said Mueller.

Defensively, the Bluebirds will be led by one of the best defensive lineman in the state in Seth Hope, who currently holds offers from Cornell, Princeton, Harvard, Penn, Yale, Morehead State with interest from Miami (OH) and Cincinnati.

"Seth is going to have a phenomenal year," said Coach Mueller.

Others that should be looked at to make an impact on defense include Braden Hicks, Nathan Merkle, and Bo Hebel on the line. The strength of this years’ team will be at the linebacker position as they are not only deep, but also extremely talented with seniors Thomas Wrobleski, Joey Cochran, Michael Ayers, Joey Kruse, and junior Brady Murray, who has been playing great throughout the summer.

At defensive back, there will once again be a lot of speed and talent led by Jackson Bardo and Andrew Abner.

"We are just so deep at every position on defense," Mueller said again, in reference to his defense.

As far as the Bluebirds schedule goes, it will once again be loaded as they travel to 5A power John Hardin, Paducah Tilgman, and Cincinnati Elder. The Birds will host Campbell County, Bryan Station, and another potential top 5 team in class 5A in Warren Central. The schedule will be highlighted with a home game that will be televised on ESPNU against University Christian out of Jacksonville, Florida.

"We’d like to play more games against local teams, but it’s hard for us to get people to schedule us," said Mueller. "We open up with University Christian out of Jacksonville, Florida who was a state champion last year and have a lot of great football players that are division I prospects. This is probably the toughest schedule we’ve ever had."

With all of the high praise by Dale, you’d expect him to have extremely high expectaitions for this year’s team but that simply wasn’t the case when asked what expectations were for his team.

"Our big expectation is just to do our best every day, regardless of what we are doing. We are wanting to do as good as we possibly can. We obviously want to win a state championship but the big goal is to just get better every day."

The players, however, have much higher expectations than what Coach Mueller stated and realize this could be a special season, led by an extremely talented group of seniors.

"We want to go undefeated and be nationally ranked," said seniors Drew Houliston and Seth Hope in regards to the tough schedule. "Expectations are much higher than just a state championship."

Players to watch:

Drew Houliston (SR QB) - The senior signal caller has waited his turn but is primed and ready for a huge season. His strength is as a true pocket passer and the kid has great accuaracy to go with a big arm.

Ryan Green (SR WR) - Green will be huge for the Birds out wide this season and should be a problem for opposing teams because of his strength and speed that compliments his athleticism.

Jensen Feggins (JR WR) - Feggins was a key piece to last season’s state championsip team and should be counted on to make an impact once again this year out wide.

Nick True (SR TE) - The 6’5 Western Kentucky commit provides a big target for Houliston to look for across the middle and in the flats, while also being a big blocker for Zach Harris to run behind.

Zach Harris (SR RB) - Harris returns as a 3 year starter and this could be his biggest season yet. With guys like Green and Feggins out wide, Harris should be able to gut the defense for long runs as they won’t be able to stack the box on him.

Seth Hope (SR DE) – The senior is receiving a lot of interest from the Ivy league to go along with a couple smaller D1 schools, but this kid has big time talent and potential. He takes it personal that his weight has cost him a couple BCS offers and he will be looking to just absolutely abuse anyone and everyone he goes against. His physicality is his biggest asset and it should be on display a lot this year to go along with his underrated speed and quickness.
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