Saturday, September 18, 1999

Elder 35, Highlands 14

Panthers grind down Bluebirds in battle of No. 1s

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Elder's Kyle Koester follows a block.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        Abandoning the razzle-dazzle offense used in the first half, Elder rallied for a 35-14 victory over Highlands on Friday before a crowd of 11,000 at Elder Stadium.

        Elder's Kyle Koester, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound junior fullback, rushed for 227 yards on 42 carries and scored two TDs. In Elder's first two games, Koester had carried the ball 47 times for 330 yards.

        “We came out the second half and went straight at them,” Koester said. “Coach (Doug Ramsey) didn't say anything at halftime, but I was happy to get the ball.”

        This was the first meeting between Elder and Highlands.

        It was a matchup between Cincinnati's No.1 Division I team (Elder) in the Enquirer's coaches poll and Northern Kentucky's best (Highlands), the state's defending Class 3A champion.

        The loss broke Highlands' 18-game winning streak dating to 1997 and was the Bluebirds' first regular-season loss away from home since 1995.

        But Highlands led early. Trailing 14-7 at halftime, Elder scored 14 points in each of the third and fourth quarters.

Elder's Dave Kumpf blocks a pass by Gino Guidugli.
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        “We wore them down the second half,” Ramsey said of the Bluebirds, who had six players playing both offense and defense. “We struggled in the first half because of their speed, but we adjusted after their first drive.”

        Highlands' opening drive covered 76 yards in seven plays and ended with quarterback Gino Guidugli throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Brett Hamblen.

        From that point, the Elder defense was in control, holding the Bluebirds to seven points — set up by a 46-yard punt return to the Panthers 4 late in the second quarter.

        “We made a lot of big plays in the first half but only came close to making them in the second half,” Highlands coach Dale Mueller said. “Give Elder credit. They're a great team and played an outstanding game.”

        A controversial pass interferance call against Highlands in the third quarter turned the game in favor of the Panthers.

        On a fourth-and-10 from the Highlands 20, a Bluebirds defender was called for pass interference on a throw to Koester, who appeared several yards out of bounds.

        “I thought we had the pass covered well,” Mueller said. “It was definitely the turning point.”

        The ball was moved to the Bluebirds 10, and Chris Braun caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Collin Carey with 1:35 remaining in the third quarter. That gave Elder a 21-14 lead.

        The Panthers pushed across two more TDs in the fourth quarter against a Bluebirds defense that spent most of the second half on the field.

        “We told the kids before the game that if Highlands got ahead, to stay focused,” Ramsey said. “We knew they could move the ball, and it didn't surprise me that they scored.”

        Elder won the battle of the statistics.

        The Panthers rushed for 190 yards (but lost 75 on nine sacks) and passed for 165 on a 12-of-21 effort by Carey. Highlands rushed for 24 yards on 13 carries and picked up 93 yards through the air on 9-of-30 passing by Guidugli.

        Highlands ....... 7  7   0   0—14

        Elder ....... 0  7  14  14—35

        H—Hamblen 5 pass from Guidugli (Jones kick) 1

        E—Carey 1 run (DeFranco kick) 2

        H—Guidugli 1 run (Jones kick) 2

        E—Koester 14 run (DeFranco kick) 3

        E—Braun 7 pass from Carey (DeFranco kick) 3

        E—Carey 5 run (DeFranco kick)

        E—Koester 1 run (DeFranco kick)

        Records: Elder 4-0, Highlands 3-1.


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