The Highlands Bluebirds picked up their second straight road playoff victory as they knocked off the Harlan County Black Bears 34-6 to advance to next week's Class 5A state championship game in Bowling Green.
Highlands (13-1) got on the board first when linebacker Billy Huddleston recovered a fumble and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game. The Bluebirds added another touchdown on their first offensive possession as Patrick Towles connected with Daniel Gold for a 41-yard touchdown pass to go up 14-0.
Harlan County (12-2) got on the board in the second quarter as Marcus McMillan broke loose for a 76-yard rushing touchdown, but the two-point conversion failed and the score was left at 14-6. He finished with 147 yards on 19 carries in the loss. The Black Bears finished the game with 300 yards of total offense, including 291 yards rushing.
Towles and Gold would connect again for a score in the third quarter on a 31-yard pass to put the game out of reach. However, the Bluebirds weren't done denting the scoreboard. Austin Sheehan added a 63-yard receiving touchdown and junior Jake True would punch one in on a 3-yard run, both in the fourth quarter, as Highlands pulled away.
Towles finished the night by throwing for 270 yards and three touchdowns and added 47 more yards and a score on 11 carries. Gold caught eight balls for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns for Highlands in the win.
"We are looking forward to this. The first time in school history that we've won four in a row so we are really out to do it," head coach Dale Mueller said in an interview following the game on FOX19's Final Quarter. "We were looking to come down here and get a win and we did."
The Bluebirds move on to next week's 5A title game versus Christian County at 3:00 p.m. Saturday in Bowling Green as they go for a record 20th state championship.