BY NEIL SCHMIDT
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT MITCHELL, Ky. -- Six seconds remained in the first quarter Saturday when Highlands football coach Dale Mueller called for a Hail Mary pass. His assistants quickly corrected him.
"I thought that was the end of the half," Mueller said. "I looked up and couldn't believe we had only played a quarter."
An hour had already passed. By the time Highlands finished off Louisville Male 51-41 in the St. Luke Hospitals Champions Bowl at Beechwood, the time elapsed had grown to 3:10.
"If you ran that time to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon, you wouldn't make it," Mueller said.
In a game loaded with big names, big plays and big numbers, the long afternoon brought a clear conclusion: Highlands is loaded. For those who figure Jared Lorenzen's left arm and Derek Smith's pass-catching ability will have to carry the Bluebirds, check the stats page.
Smith, an All-America senior tight end, was nursing a sprained ankle and caught just one pass, a 10-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Lorenzen, who threw for 2,759 yards in 13 games last fall, had a modest day passing: 9-for-18, 225 yards, two TDs, two interceptions. Thanks to three 100-yard rushers, the Bluebirds bullied the Bulldogs into submission, putting the game away early in the second half. (Male scored three meaningless fourth-quarter TDs.)
"Highlands is a great football team," Male coach Bob Redman said. "They've got a lot more than just two guys (Lorenzen and Smith)."
Mainly, they've got muscle. Highlands' new offensive line bench-pressed Male down the field, and 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior tailback Brian Ulbricht and the 6-4, 240-pound Lorenzen tenderized Male's line.
Ulbricht (100 yards, two TDs on 16 carries) and Lorenzen (120 yards, two TDs on 16 rushes) were the battering rams, and 5-8, 150-pound senior Noah Gibson was the sword. Gibson knifed through holes for 131 yards and a score on 12 carries, and caught three passes for 78 yards.
(Take out two sacks and four kneel-downs, and Lorenzen had 133 yards on 10 carries.)
It was the second-highest rushing total in Gibson's career; career-bests for the other two.
"A lot of people said our line wasn't going to be any good," Ulbricht said. "But they saw otherwise today."
Male was ranked third in Class AAAA in the Lexington Herald-Leader's state coaches' poll, and Highlands was first in AAA. Herald-Leader prep guru Mike Fields rated Male the top team in Kentucky, regardless of division, with Highlands second.
Male looked deserving of its ranking early, taking a 14-6 lead. The pace heated up, as the teams scored on six of seven possessions in one stretch, but after Male tied it 22-22, it was all Highlands. The Bluebirds had 372 yards at halftime and finished with 581. Male, led by senior quarterback Gerry Ahrens (16-for-38, 330 yards, two TDs and an interception), had 363 yards.
"Knowing we can knock off a good team like that means a lot to us," Lorenzen said. "I think we made a statement today that we can play with anyone."
Louisville Male 14 8 0 19 - 41
Highlands 14 22 8 7 - 51
M_Findley 9 pass from Ahrens (Jecker kick)
H_Ulbricht 1 run (kick failed)
M_Jones 90 kickoff return (Jecker kick)
H-Ulbricht 4 run (Lorenzen run)
H_Lorenzen 10 run (Jones pass from Lorenzen)
M_Findley 69 pass from Ahrens (Hogan pass from Ahrens)
H_Lorenzen 1 run (pass failed)
H_Birkley 45 pass from Lorenzen (Lorenzen run)
H_Gibson 22 run (Ulbricht pass from Lorenzen)
M_Ahrens 1 run (pass failed)
H_Smith 10 pass from Lorenzen (Jones kick)
M_Harris 60 kickoff return (run failed)
M_Harris 7 pass from Ahrens (Jecker kick)
Records: Highlands 1-0, Louisville Male 0-1.