Saturday, November 13, 1999

Dixie Heights 35, Holmes 9

Colonels turn focus to Highlands

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dixie's Jason Soden rushed for 197 yards.
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        EDGEWOOD — As Dixie Heights convened its postgame meeting at midfield, senior captain Brett Blackwell spoke before his coaches could:

        “Now let's talk about Highlands.”

        The Bluebirds had been a taboo subject the past month as Dixie tried to keep winning and gain a rematch. With Dixie's 35-9 beating of visiting Holmes on Friday, it's here: Northern Kentucky's top two teams in the Class AAA regional championship.

        It's a game Dixie has awaited, oh, forever.

        “Everyone knows we hadn't won a second-round game before,” senior tailback Jason Soden said. “We want to see how far we can go.”

        When No.2 Dixie (10-2) visits No.1 Highlands (11-1) on Friday, it will tie the furthest the Colonels have advanced. Dixie won Class AAAA regional titles in 1981 and '84, but there were eight regions then so it reached only the state quarterfinals, as it has now.

        Highlands is ranked first and Dixie seventh in the state poll, but some observers figure this a state title tilt. In both the Litkenhous and Cantrall computer ratings, Highlands is first in AAA and Dixie second.

        “Coach (Tom) Spritzky has been telling us not to think about Highlands, to take it one game at a time,” junior lineman Dan Olberding said. “Now it's here. It's great. We're loving every minute of this.”

        Dixie has lost to Highlands 19 consecutive times and hasn't beaten the Bluebirds in 26 years, but the Colonels find hope in their 24-6 loss Oct. 15 in Fort Thomas.

        Dixie played Highlands even except for three critical plays: two Dixie fumbles and a Highlands punt-return touchdown.

        “I think we know we shot ourselves in the foot that game,” Spritzky said. “If we don't bring our "A' game, it'll be the same thing.”

        Friday, Dixie was the one parlaying turnovers into big plays. It allowed Holmes to outgain it 208 yards to 152 in the first half but still managed to build a 21-9 lead at intermission.

        Tied 7-7, Holmes had third down at Dixie's 14, and quarterback Brian Ferguson pitched to halfback Marco Hallman. Hallman stopped and threw a screen pass to Ferguson, but Olberding sniffed it out.

        The 6-foot-2, 225-pound end intercepted the ball and rumbled downfield, breaking two tackles in an 82-yard touchdown return.

        It was his first varsity touchdown, though he pointed out he had four scores as a wide receiver on the freshman team: “So you know I've got the hands,” he said.

        Olberding was mobbed as he came to the sidelines. Lineman Tyler Wichman kissed him. When the game ended, Olberding was carried off the field by his teammates.

        “Dan works his butt off every day in practice,” Soden said. “It was so exciting when he did that. It turned the game around.”

        A Holmes fumble on the ensuing drive led to another Dixie score, and the Colonels needed only run the ball after that.

        Soden totaled 197 yards on 28 carries; he had set his career high with 268 rushing yards in the regular-season victory over Holmes.

        Holmes finishes 8-4, an impressive climb from the 1-9 mark it owned last year.

        “I have nothing but pride,” Holmes coach John Vander Meer said. “The kids did a tremendous job this year. I hope they realize how far they've come.”

        Holmes ....... 7   2   0   0— 9

        Dixie Heights ....... 7  14   7   7—35

        D—Stamper 1 run (Rolfes kick)

        H—Ferguson 9 run (Rankin kick)

        D—Olberding 82 interception return (Rolfes kick)

        D—Stamper 5 run (Rolfes kick)

        H—Cantu tackles Stamper in end zone

        D—Stamper 7 run (Rolfes kick)

        D—Schneider 15 pass from C.Unkraut (Rolfes kick)

        Records: Dixie Heights 10-2, Holmes 8-4.


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