The Highlands Bluebirds scored 16 unanswered points in the second half en rout to a 29-14 victory over the Ryle Raiders in front of a monumental crowd on Friday night at Highland Heights High School.
Highland's defense came up with two takeaways in the second half, which shook up any rhythm that the Raiders may have had coming out of the break. Ryle fumbled the ball on their first drive of the third quarter; the Bluebirds turned that mistake into six points. Highland's head coach Dale Mueller wasn't thrilled about the defensive execution in the first half, but he certainly had no complaints about the defensive effort for the second half of play.
"We played great defensively in the second half," Highlands head coach Dale Mueller said. "It was better execution, we played well."
Early in the game both defenses were able to force the offenses into back-to-back three and out series'. Late in the first quarter, it was Highlands who crossed the goal line first. On the drive after Highlands scored, Ryle took the ball down the field and scored on a 25- yard TD pass from senior quarterback Conner Hempel.
Ryle took the lead in the second quarter on a one-yard TD run by junior running back Travis Elliott. The Bluebirds marched down the field and scored on a 12-yard pass as time expired in the first half. A missed extra point left the Raiders with a 14-13 lead going into the break. Highlands went on to score 16 straight points in the second half.
Highlands finished the game with more than 400 yards on offense. Junior quarterback Patrick Towels connected for 153 passing yards and one touchdown pass. He threw three interceptions in the game.
Senior running back Corey Compton had 22 carries for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns for Highlands. His five-yard TD run early in the third quarter put Highlands in the driver's seat. Classmate Jordan Streeter completed the game with 114 yards on the ground.
Senior wideout Daniel Gold grabbed three passes for 65 yards and a touchdown in the contest.
"They had their gap integrity and I saw them filling in gaps," Compton said of Ryle's defensive front. "I just had to put my head down and run for the line."
The Raiders managed 231 yards on offense against a stingy Bluebird's defense. Elliott carried the ball 13 times for 151 yards and one score. Hemple completed just five passes on the night. He tossed for 45 yards and one score, and he had one interception. Ryle's running game accounted for 186 yards of the 231 yards tallied in the loss.
Highlands (2-0) will host the Beechwood Tigers (0-1) on Sept. 3. Ryle (1-1) will look to bounce back after a week off when they host Newport Central Catholic (1-0) on Sep. 10.
"We just have to stay on it and work harder next week," Compton said. We're going to have to step it up each week."
Written by: Mike Collins, TriStateFootball.com