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June 6, 2009

Snapshot: Highlands

The 2008 season was another dominant year for the Bluebirds as they claimed their second straight state championship and 18th overall.

Highlands defeated Christian County 35-15 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, on the campus of Louisville to win the Kentucky Class 5A state championship.

Unfortunately for their opponents that championship team was comprised mostly of a group of talented juniors, which leaves the Bluebirds as heavy favorites to three-peat.

2008 RECORD: 14-1; 4-0 (5A District 5-5)

COACHING: The Bluebirds have a huge advantage year in and year out due to the stability of their coaching staff and the system that they run from the Ft. Thomas Junior Football League all the way through varsity football.

Dale Mueller returns at the helms for his 16th season as Highlands' head coach. He has 167 wins compared to only 44 losses. He also has a whopping seven state titles on his resume, which is more than any other coach in Highlands' history.

OFFENSE: The biggest question mark surrounding the Bluebirds' offense will be how well they replace former quarterback Tony Guidugli who was not only an offensive standout but also a leader on last year's team. Guidugli threw for 1850 yards last year including 12 touchdowns, and he also ran for nine more scores. Highlands has high hopes for Guidugli's replacement; senior Will Bardo.

The most intriguing change to the offense will be the Bluebirds sliding all-state cornerback/receiver/kick returner Austin Collinsworth over to running back. The hope is to allow Collinsworth to get as many chances to make big plays as possible.

Classmate Tyler Fennell was solid last season with 333 yards rushing and seven scores.

The offensive line was a big concern heading into last season due to the inexperience and youth, but the line ended up really coming together to become a dominant group.

The line is no longer a question with Tyler Combs, Tyler Grubbs and Hunter Schlosser anchoring what should be a stellar line.

Grubbs is a major prospect and currently holds three Division I offers.

Schlosser is a force up front and is the glue that holds the line together.

This will make the transition for new quarterback Will Bardo fairly painless.

DEFENSE: The Bluebirds' defense was stifling at times during the 2008 campaign as they held seven of their 15 opponents under seven points, including four shutouts.

They return Brandon Roller and possibly an All-state defensive back in Collinsworth, if he plays at all on the defensive side of the ball.

Collinsworth is a shut-down corner in every sense of the term and Roller was a monster at the linebacker position.

The whole defense last year was a stingy group made up of mostly juniors, so don't expect the 'Birds to be giving up many points this year. They have the depth to be dangerous.

8/21 - @ Dupont Manual - 7:30 pm
8/28 - @ Ryle - 7:30 pm
9/3 - @ Beechwood - 7:00 pm
9/11 - @ Cin. Withrow - 7:30 pm
9/18 - Boone County - 7:00 pm
9/25 - Cin. St. Xavier - 7:30 pm
10/2 - Dixie Heights - 7:00 pm
10/17 - @ CovCath - 1:00 pm
10/23 - Scott - 7:00 pm
10/30 - Ryle - 7:00 pm

FINAL TAKE: The Bluebirds have all the returning talent that they need to make another run at a state title. That combined with a brutal schedule should have them prepared to make a deep run in the playoffs once again.



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