Saturday, November 20, 1999

Highlands 41, Dixie Heights 24

Enquirer contributor

Highlands' Jake Donelan tries to put the brakes on Dixie's Dan Metzger.
(Josh Biggs photos)
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        FORT THOMAS — This time, the only help the Highlands offense needed was provided by the Highlands defense.

        The Dixie Heights Colonels believed that, if they eliminated the mistakes that they felt cost them a win in their regular-season matchup against the Bluebirds, they could leave Highlands with their first-ever trip to the Class AAA state football semifinals.

        Instead, the Bluebirds defense shut down the Colonels offense, setting the stage for Highlands to take a 41-0 lead on the way to a 41-24 victory in the Region 3 championship game at Highlands on Friday night.

        “They said they were nervous in the first game,” said junior wide receiver-defensive back Brett Hamblen, who scored four touchdowns three different ways. “They said they made too many mistakes. Well, we forced those fumbles. Our defense causes turnovers. We definitely had something to prove.”

Highlands' Brett Hamblen makes a diving tackle on Jason Soden.
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        “I thought we were ready,” Dixie Heights coach Tom Spritzky said. “We couldn't move the ball. They played awfully well.”

        Highlands (12-1), the defending Class AAA state champion, will meet Lawrence County, a 48-14 winner over Rockcastle County, in the state semifinals Friday at Highlands.

        The Bluebirds defense limited Dixie Heights (10-3) to four first-half first downs, none in the first quarter and the first two by penalty. The Colonels lost four yards rushing in the first quarter and gained 63 yards in the first half.

        Dixie Heights ended up with 257 yards of total offense, most of them coming in the fourth quarter while stringing together three touchdown drives. Senior running back Scott Stamper scored two of them.

        Quick-striking Highlands scored on consecutive plays to take a 14-0 lead. Hamblen scored on an 18-yard reverse with 9:15 left in the first quarter, and after the Colonels were forced to punt, he caught a perfectly placed, 57-yard pass from junior Gino Guidugli.

        Senior running back Brenden Zenni, who gained 75 yards on 17 carries, capped a seven-play drive with a 1-yard plunge on the first play of the second quarter, and Guidugli struck again with another strike to a well-covered Hamblen, who turned it into a 31-yard touchdown. Guidugli finished 4-for-9 for 75 yards.

        “They had pretty good coverage, but Gino's pretty accurate,” said Hamblen, who caught three passes for 121 yards. “He laid it right out there.”

        “We're going to erect a statue to those two guys,” Highlands coach Dale Mueller said. “On a couple of those passes, the defender was right with Brett, but Gino put it right there. I think Gino hitting a couple of those passes took the wind out of their sails.”

        “I think a lot of people didn't expect us to jump out like that,” Hamblen added. “We were well-prepared for them. Coach Mueller had an excellent game plan. We knew just what they were going to do.”

        Dixie Heights ....... 0   0   0  24—24

        Highlands ....... 14  14  13   0—41

        H—Hamblen 18 run (Jones kick)

        H—Hamblen 57 pass from Guidugli (Jones kick)

        H—Zenni 1 run (Jones kick)

        H—Hamblen 31 pass from Guidugli (Jones kick)

        H—Zenni 86 kickoff return (kick failed)

        H—Hamblen 73 interception return (Jones kick)

        D—Stamper 4 run (pass failed)


        D—Stamper 6 run (Stamper run)

        D—Buford 3 run (Buford run)

        Records: Dixie Heights 10-3, Highlands 12-1.


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