Saturday, October 16, 1999

Highlands 24, Dixie Heights 6

No. 2 Dixie falls to 'Birds 19th time in row

Enquirer contributor

Brenden Zenni scores one of his two TD's.
(Thomas E. Witte photos)
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        FORT THOMAS — No.1 Highlands proved again Friday that the road to the state Class AAA football championship still runs through Fort Thomas.

        Senior tailback Brenden Zenni scored twice and junior Brett Hamblen returned a punt 73 yards for another touchdown in the Bluebirds' 24-6 district win over No.2 Dixie Heights in a game between the top two teams in The Enquirer's North ern Kentucky coaches poll.

        “Everybody in Northern Kentucky knows who's the No.1 team,” Hamblen said.

        Zenni, who scored from six and 11 yards, ran 20 times for 75 yards. He said it wasn't an easy win.

        “We know that Dixie Heights is even better than expected,” Zenni said. “The lived up to every expectation. It took all we had.”

        Dixie (6-2) lost to the Bluebirds for the 19th straight time, and the Colonels haven't beaten the Bluebirds in 27 years. Hamblen was a large part of the reason Friday. In addition to the punt return, he recovered a fumble.

Highlands tacklers stuff a Dixie Heights ballcarrier.
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        “(Hamblen is) so dangerous every time he touches the ball,” Highlands coach Dale Mueller said. “He's been doing this every game.”

        But Hamblen and Zenni weren't the only stars. Junior Chris Schneider intercepted two passes.

        Give the entire the Bluebird defense credit. It sacked Dixie senior quarterback Chris Unkraut four times, hurried him all night and held senior tailback Jason Soden to 90 yards for the game and just seven in the second half.

        “We have such an athletic defense,” Mueller said. “The defense is a tribute to how hard our guys work year-round.”

        When Dixie looks at Friday's videotape, the Colonels might cringe at three first-half plays.

        First, an 18-yard pass from senior Unkraut to senior Andy Schneider with about seven minutes left in the first quarter which took the ball to the Dixie 35. Schneider fumbled, and Hamblen recovered.

        Two plays later, Zenni had his 6-yard touchdown with 6:22 left in the first quarter.

        Next, Dixie senior Scott Stamper broke for a 15-yard run late in the first quarter. Unfortunately for Dixie, Stamper's play ended the same as Schneider's — Highlands recovered a fumble at the Bluebird 10 with a second remaining.

        The result: a 10-play drive ending with Zenni's 11-yard TD with 8:54 left in the first half.

        And finally, Hamblen's punt return TD with 6:48 left in the half. He took Mike Schmidt's kick at the Highlands 27 and went practically untouched.

        “It was supposed to be return right,” Hamblen said. “I saw a gap up the middle and got a couple huge blocks.”

        Those three plays overshadowed Soden's 15 carries for 83 yards in the first half and a Colonel pass defense that held Highlands junior Gino Guidugli to 3-of-10 for 23 yards and an interception.

        Dixie's spread offense finally connected with 34 seconds left in the half, when Unkraut found freshman Doug Jones over the middle for a 21-yard TD.

        One more Dixie mistake led to Highlands' final points. The Colonels held the Bluebirds on a series late in the third quarter, but a personal foul penalty gave Highlands a first down, and senior kicker Brennan Jones finished the drive with a 22-yard field goal with 56 seconds left in the third quarter.

        Dixie Heights ....... 0   6  0  0— 6

        Highlands ....... 7  14  3  0—24

        H-Zenni 6 run (Jones kick)

        H-Zenni 11 run (Jones kick)

        H-Hamblen 73 punt return (Jones kick)

        DH-Jones 21 pass from C. Unkraut (kick blocked)

        H-Jones 22 field goal

        Records: DH 6-2 (2-1 in Class AAA district), H 7-1 (3-0).

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How ranked teams fared
Top performers
Aiken 26, Woodward 20
Anderson 42, Amelia 18
Badin 28, McNicholas 13
Batavia 10, New Richmond 7
Beechwood 50, Holy Cross 14
Bellevue 28, Ludlow 6
Brookville 24, Middletown Madison 17
Bryan Station 41, Boone County 28
Chaminade-Julienne 42, Ontario St. Thomas Aquinas 6
CHCA 54, Landmark Christian 0
Cincinnati Country Day 50, Lockland 21
Colerain 42, Hamilton 21
Covington Catholic 24, Holmes 7
Fairfield 28, Princeton 7
Finneytown 21, Mariemont 14
Goshen 35, Norwood 28
Grant County 47, Montgomery County 27
Henry Clay 49, Campbell County 7
- Highlands 24, Dixie Heights 6
Hillsboro 22, Bethel-Tate 7
Hughes 6, Withrow 0
Indian Hill 27, Deer Park 3
Indianapolis Cathedral Prep 34, LaSalle 24
Kings 42, Wilmington 7
Lakota West 38, Sycamore 34
Lebanon 49, Ross 21
Lima Senior 35, Lakota East 32
Little Miami 13, Loveland 7
Madeira 28, Taylor 0
Mason 35, Harrison 0
Middletown 14, Milford 7
Moeller 19, Franklin Co. 18
Newport 32, Lloyd 0
Newport Catholic 22, Dayton 0
North College Hill 44, New Miami 6
Northwest 19, Glen Este 14
Oak Hills 22, East Central 16
Purcell Marian 20, Roger Bacon 17
Ryle 35, Scott County 20
St. Xavier 30, Elder 13
Turpin 35, Winton Woods 0
Walnut Hills 46, Mount Healthy 8
Western Brown 42, Summit Country Day 37
Western Hills 44, Taft 0
Williamsburg 37, Clermont Northeastern 6
Wyoming 42, Reading 3