Highland Heights scored four touchdowns in the second half en rout to a 42-28 victory over the Dixie Colonels, helping them advance to the quarterfinals of the High School Class 5A Playoffs.
The Bluebirds struggled to defend Dixie quarterback Zeke Pike in the first half. Pike threw two touchdown passes, and ran for one touchdown to help the Colonels get a lead going into the break. Highland's second half effort displayed character and poise.
"Early on we didn't play well, we gave them a lot of opportunities early and we really weren't pleased with how it went," Highlands head coach Dale Mueller said. "Our guys really showed a lot of character, things were going wrong. We were losing at halftime and we were kicking off to them, but we stopped them and scored, stopped them then scored. I was really impressed with how our guys came out in the second half."
The Colonels forced Highlands to punt on their opening drive. Dixie blocked the punt to get the field position they needed to get on the board early. Pike took the great field position and turned it into points.
Highlands quarterback Patrick Towles threw a 40-yard TD pass to receiver Daniel Gold on the ensuing drive to tie the score at 7-7.
The two teams traded touchdowns again to push the scores to 14-14. Just before the end of the first half, Pike completed a short touchdown pass to give the Colonels a 21-14 advantage.
Highlands forced Dixie to punt on the first drive of the second half. The Bluebirds moved the ball down field quickly, and scored on Towles' nine yard TD run. The Colonels fumbled on their next possession and Highlands benefitted from the mistake.
Jake True punched in the end zone on a four yard run to give the Bluebirds their first lead of the night. They never looked back.
Pike completed 20 0f 32 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Dixie Receiver Bobby Leonard tallied 11 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns. The Colonels had 308 passing yards and 49 rushing yards for a total of 357 yards on offense.
Towles passed for 135 yards and one touchdown toss. He rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Gold had three catches for 79 yards and a touchdown grab. Jake True rushed for 49 yards and two touchdowns in the contest. The Bluebirds had 135 yards through the air and 250 yards on the ground for 385 yards on offense.
Highlands's defense forced Dixie to turn the ball over four times in the second half. The defense recorded a fumble recovery, two interceptions and a turnover on downs.
"They played great for such a dangerous team," Mueller said of his defense. "You know Zeke Pike back there is dangerous, running or passing it, he's just a high school football player who can do all that stuff. It's really difficult to defend.
Highlands will play Johnson Central in the quarterfinals on Nov. 19 at 12 p.m. The semifinals will be played on Nov. 26 and the Class 5A Championship will be played on Dec. 4.
Written by: Mike Collins, TriStateFootball.com