Monday, August 27, 2007

Expectations High for the 'Birds in 2007

The Highlands Bluebirds enter the 2007 season with high expectations. This marks the first year of Kentucky's new six-class football system (with Class 1A containing the smallest schools and Class 6A containing the largest schools). Highlands was originally placed in Class 3A, but petitioned and was granted permission by the KHSAA to play up two classes, thus being classified as Class 5A. The 'Birds are the only football program in the entire state that will play two classes above its original classification.

Entering the season, the 'Birds are ranked number one, regardless of classification, in all of northern Kentucky in the preseason coaches' poll, and number one in Class 5A in all the state's major preseason rankings. Also, they are ranked number three in the entire state of Kentucky, regardless of football classification, in Mike Fields' Top 25 (of the Lexington Herald-Leader).

This year, HHS will be led by returning senior quarterback Clay Cecil, listed as one of the top 50 players in Kentucky by the state's coaches. Junior running back Josh Conner figures to play a key role in the offense, as he ran for 771 yards and 8 touchdowns as a backup RB last season. Wideouts Drew Simons and Jay Draper are likely to be Cecil's top receiving targets in 2007. On defense, the linebacking corps will lead the way, featuring Luke Stein (listed as a top-20 senior prospect in Kentucky by the Louisville Courier-Journal), Zach Hurtt, and Ryan Ball.

The highlight of the regular season schedule will undoubtedly occur during the second week, when the 'Birds face Trotwood-Madison (Ohio) in the 2007 Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge III, played at the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium. Other games of note include Lexington Catholic (the preseason number-one team in Class 4A), Louisville Central (the preseason number-one team in Class 3A), and district archrival and defending state champion Covington Catholic, who eliminated the 'Birds from the playoffs last year. Of HHS' ten 2007 regular season opponents, eight made their respective playoffs last year, and those ten teams combined for a total win-loss record of 75-47 in 2006.

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