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Season Recaps 1

HIGHLANDS' SEASON RECAPS: 2007-PRESENT
 
(Coaching great Dale Mueller's tenure at Highlands began in 1994)
 
2016 Season:
The 2015 season was a tale of two halves for Fort Thomas Highlands.  The 'Birds started the year with an uncharacteristic 1-5 record and then won the next seven games, including two victories against rival Covington Catholic, before falling to defending Class 5A champion Pulaski County by a score of 41-31 in the Class 5A state semifinal game.  The Highlands offense was led by running back Nick Kendall (who rushed for 1485 yards) and quarterback Austin Hergott (who threw for 1722 yards); Hergott accepted a football scholarship to NCAA FBS Central Michigan University following the season.  The Highlands varsity team finished 2015 with a record of 8-6, and was regional champion and district champion.  The Highlands junior varsity (JV) team finished with a record of 7-2, and the Highlands freshman team finished 2015 with a 7-3 mark.

 
2015 Season:
The 2014 season was a time of both change and continuing tradition for the Fort Thomas Highlands football program.  Soon after the completion of the 2013 season, Dale Mueller retired as Highlands' head football coach after a 20-year tenure with the Bluebirds, and Brian Weinrich took over the Highlands football program following the school's first non-state championship season since 2006.  In addition, the 2014 season marked the 100-year anniversary of football at Highlands High School.  Despite the significant changes to the Highlands football program, the tradition of excellence and success resumed in 2014, as the Bluebirds captured the program's 23rd official state football title.  The 'Birds did not lose a game against in-state competition, with notable victories against Bryan Station, John Hardin, Warren Central and rival Covington Catholic during the regular season.  Highlands' two losses came against Cincinnati (Ohio) power Elder and Miami (Florida) Christopher Columbus; after beating Highlands by four points, Columbus finished its season as the state runner-up in Florida's largest football class (Class 8A).  Highlands continued its dominance over Covington Catholic during the postseason, defeating the Colonels in the regional final.  The Bluebirds rallied from a 21-point halftime deficit to knock off Owensboro in the Class 4A state championship played at Western Kentucky University.  The Highlands varsity team finished 2014 with a 13-2 mark, and was Kentucky Class 4A champion, regional champion, district champion and NKAC champion.  The Highlands junior varsity (JV) team finished the season with a record of 1-5, and the Highlands freshman squad wrapped up 2014 with a record of 3-5.  At the conclusion of the season, Highlands quarterback Beau Hoge and wide receiver Alex Veneman were named as finalists for the Kentucky Mr. Football award, given annually to the state's best prep football player.  Hoge was named a member of the Lexington Herald-Leader's 2014 Class of the Commonwealth, and both Hoge and Veneman were recognized as All-State football players by the Associated Press. 
     
   
2013 Season:
Fort Thomas Highlands entered 2013 riding a string of six consecutive state football titles, tied for the longest active state championship win streak in the nation.  The season began in an auspicious manner for the Bluebirds, as Highlands blew out Jacksonville (Florida) University Christian live on ESPNU, as part of the ESPN High School Football Kickoff and the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.  Highlands' powerful offense picked up where it had left off in 2012, and the 'Birds finished the regular season with only one blemish, a three-point loss to Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder at The Pit.  For the third consecutive year, Highlands defeated district rival Covington Catholic twice, once during the regular season and once in the postseason.  The Bluebirds entered the Class 4A state title game with a 13-1 mark.  However, Collins, a team Highlands had defeated by a score of 47-0 in the 2012 championship game, scored a go-ahead touchdown with just seconds left in the contest to defeat Fort Thomas Highlands and snap the Bluebirds' state title win streak.  The Highlands varsity squad finished 2013 with a record of 13-2, and was Kentucky Class 4A runner-up, regional champion, district champion and NKAC champion.  The Highlands junior varsity (JV) team finished the year with a 6-1 mark, and the Highlands freshman squad wrapped up 2013 with a record of 5-4.  Following the completion of the football season, eight Highlands senior committed to play collegiate football in 2014.
 
In December 2013, Coach Dale Mueller, the leader of Highlands' football program since 1994, announced he was stepping down as head football coach.  Coach Mueller ended his coaching career with an all-time mark of 309-67, and a record of 250-36 at Highlands.  He won a state-best 11 football titles while at Highlands.
 

2012 Season:
Fort Thomas Highlands made history in 2012, capturing the program's sixth consecutive state football title, a new record in Kentucky.  Despite losing several key players from the 2011 squad that went 15-0, the Bluebirds did not lose a beat in 2012, especially on the offensive side of the ball.  Led by quarterback Donovan McCoy, running backs Zach Harris and Colin Seidl, wide receiver Luke Turner and a powerful offensive line, the 'Birds amassed 111 touchdowns, 781 points and 7424 total yards on their way to winning the Kentucky Class 4A state championship.  Highlands dominated the competition from Northern Kentucky, including two hard-fought victories against rival Covington Catholic, considered by many to be the second-best team in Class 4A in 2012.  Highlands also blasted Class 6A power Scott County by a score of 60-37 during the regular season.  The team's sole loss came against Ohio Division I Cincinnati Elder; clips from this game were aired during NBC's Sunday Night Football broadcast for that week.  The high point of the season was undoubtedly the state championship game, played at Western Kentucky University.  Highlands shut out Collins by a score of 47-0 to earn the program's 22nd official state football title, tied with Class 6A Louisville Trinity for the most in Kentucky.  This championship victory marked the first time Collins has been held scoreless in the program's history.  Coach Dale Mueller added to his title mark; this win gave him a total of 11 head coaching titles in football, the most in Kentucky.  Quarterback Donovan McCoy, offensive lineman Mitch Dee and defensive lineman Seth Hope were named first-team 2012 Associated Press All-State.  The Highlands varsity squad finished 2012 as Kentucky Class 4A champion, regional champion, district champion and NKAC champion.  The Highlands junior varsity (JV) team finished the year with a record of 7-2, and the Highlands freshman squad completed the season with a 6-3 mark.
 
 
2011 Season:
Fort Thomas Highlands experienced a record-setting year in football.  After spending the previous four seasons as a member of Kentucky Class 5A, a realignment moved the Bluebirds into Class 4A for the 2011 season.  While Highlands' classification may have changed, the results remained the same - a state championship in football.  Highlands finished the year with a perfect 15-0 record, extending the program's current win streak to 20 games.  In addition, the Bluebirds closed out 2011 with a 25-game postseason win streak, the longest active playoff win streak in Kentucky.  Along the way, Highlands set several state records, including points in a season (849), touchdowns in a season (121), total yardage in a season (7517), and extra points made in a season (104).  Highlands has now won five consecutive state titles, which is tied for the most in Kentucky prep football history.  The Bluebirds' 21 official state football titles is tied for the most all-time in Kentucky.  Coach Mueller won his tenth state championship, a state record in Kentucky, and the program added to its state records for most undefeated seasons (13) and all-time wins (828).
 
Highlands' primary strength in 2011 was its potent offense, led by quarterback Patrick Towles.  Towles amassed 3820 passing yards, 42 passing touchdowns and just one interception for the season, in addition to scoring 15 touchdowns on the ground and leading the team in rushing with 589 yards.  His best receiver, Austin Sheehan, racked up 1013 yards on 29 receptions, equating to a whopping 34.9 yards per reception, the best in the nation this year.  On defense, the Bluebirds pitched four shutouts during the season.  In addition to the statistical high marks, Fort Thomas Highlands scored some notable victories in 2011.  The Bluebirds defeated Ohio Division I Cincinnati Elder at "The Pit," marking the first time Highlands has ever defeated Elder in football.  Also, Highlands started the regular season with a bang, knocking off defending Kentucky Class 4A state champion Boyle County 35-14 to kick off the year.
 
Patrick Towles was named Mr. Kentucky Football at the close of the 2011 season, becoming only the second player from Highlands to win this prestigious award, which is given to the state's best prep football senior.  He was also named a Parade All-American and an ESPN All-American at quarterback.  Towles finished his prep football career as the starting quarterback for three state championship squads, and he won two consecutive state championship MVP awards.  Four Highlands seniors, quarterback Patrick Towles, wide receiver Austin Sheehan, defensive lineman Devin Bruns and defensive back Drake Bruns were named First Team Associated Press All-State; Highlands was the only school to have four players named to the first team.  The Highlands varsity squad finished 2011 as Kentucky Class 4A champion, regional champion, district champion and NKAC champion.  The Highlands junior varsity (JV) team finished 2011 with a 6-3 record, and the Highlands freshman team closed out 2011 with a 7-3 record.  At the national level, the Bluebirds finished the year ranked 31st nationally in the final ESPN Powerade Fab 50 Rankings.        
 
  
2010 Season: 
Fort Thomas Highlands continued its dominance of Kentucky Class 5A, as the team captured the program's fourth consecutive state championship, a new school record.  Highlands had to replace several first-rate starters from the 2009 squad, and many thought the Bluebirds would have an uphill battle in order to win the state title in 2010.  However, the 'Birds picked up where the program left off last season, winning the first nine games of the season to extend the school's win streak to 37 games, the longest active win streak in Kentucky at that time.  During the season, Highlands posted impressive wins against Class 6A Louisville DuPont Manual, Louisville Eastern, Ryle and Boone County, in addition to non-district wins over Cincinnati Withrow and Beechwood.  Highlands also went undefeated in district play, defeating Dixie Heights, Scott and archrival Covington Catholic.  Highlands was finally defeated in the last game of the regular season; the 'Birds lost a thriller against Ryle 26-28 at Ryle to conclude the regular season.  The loss marked Highlands' first loss to a Kentucky opponent since 2006.  Highlands had defeated Ryle 29-14 earlier in the year.  In the playoffs, several key injured players returned to action for the Bluebirds and the team returned to its winning ways, culminating in a 50-0 crushing of Christian County in the state title game.  This 50-point margin was Highlands' largest title game margin of victory and the second-largest margin of victory in Kentucky state championship history.  With the win, Highlands registered its 20th official state championship in football, a record in Kentucky.  Coach Mueller also set a record, becoming the first head coach to win nine state football titles in Kentucky.  Junior quarterback Patrick Towles was named the Kentucky Class 5A, District 5 Player of the Year and Dale Mueller was named Northern Kentucky Co-Coach of the Year by the Cincinnati Enquirer.  Highlands finished the year as the second-highest ranked team in Kentucky (behind Class 6A champion Louisville Trinity) in all the statewide ranking services.  The varsity squad finished as Kentucky Class 5A champion, regional champion, district champion and NKAC champion.  The Highlands junior varsity (JV) team finished the year a perfect 9-0 and the freshman squad finished 10-0, capturing the Northern Kentucky large school freshman championship.                        
 
 
2009 Season:
Fort Thomas Highlands had arguably its most impressive season ever, as the program won its third consecutive Kentucky Class 5A championship, finishing 2009 undefeated and nationally ranked.  Expectations were high for the Bluebirds heading into the season, as the team was returning a great deal of talent and experience from the 2008 championship squad.  The team did not disappoint.  Highlands rolled through the regular season, posting a 10-0 record heading into the state playoffs.  During the 2009 regular season, Highlands hosted Cincinnati Saint Xavier for a cross-river showdown that was televised nationally on the CBS College Sports Network.  Both teams entered the contest undefeated and nationally ranked.  The Bluebirds, led by quarterback Will Bardo on offense and linebacker Brandon Roller on defense, defeated the Bombers 12-7, and thereby gained a great deal of recognition and respect at the national level.  This win was especially impressive, given that Cincinnati Saint Xavier had dominated both Louisville Trinity and Louisville Saint Xavier earlier in the season.  Unfortunately for the 'Birds, Will Bardo (who was named Most Valuable Player in the game) injured his elbow and was unable to play quarterback for the remainder of the year.  The Bluebirds' potent offense did not miss a beat, however, as sophomore Patrick Towles, the grandson of Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, took over the reins and played very well.  The Cincinnati Saint Xavier game was not Highlands' only moment in the national spotlight.  Running back Austin Collinsworth was named the MaxPreps National Player of the Week after his incredible performance against arch-rival Covington Catholic; Collinsworth amassed 229 rushing yards and two touchdowns, despite playing with an injury.  In postseason action, the Bluebirds blew through the Class 5A competition, culminating in a 35-7 win over John Hardin in the Kentucky Class 5A title game.  This win gave Highlands its 19th official state football title, tied for most in the state.  The Highlands Bluebirds, with a 2009 record of 15-0, finished the year with the following national rankings: third in the USA Today Super 25, eighth in the RivalsHigh 100, eighth in the ESPN Rise Football Fab 50 Rankings, 18th in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 and 24th in the PrepNation National Prep Football Poll.  Highlands' third-place finish in the USA Today Super 25 (considered the most prestigious national rankings list) was the highest national ranking the program has ever received in its storied history.  Highlands finished the season as Kentucky Class 5A state champion, Class 5A, Region 3 champion, Class 5A, District 5 champion and NKAC champion.  In addition, the Highlands junior varsity (JV) team ended the season with a 7-2 record and the Highlands freshman team won the Northern Kentucky freshman large-school championship, finishing with a 7-2 record. 
 
Senior running back Austin Collinsworth was named a US Army All-American, as well as Associated Press (AP) second-team All-State and Kentucky Class 5A, District 5 Player of the Year.  In addition, Collinsworth was the recipient of the 2009 Paul Hornung Award, given out by the Louisville Touchdown Club to Kentucky's top prep football player.  Senior offensive lineman Tyler Grubbs was named a MaxPreps High School Football All-American.  Senior linebacker Brandon Roller, senior offensive lineman Hunter Schlosser and senior offensive lineman Tyler Grubbs were named AP first-team All-State.  Both Austin Collinsworth and Tyler Grubbs accepted NCAA FBS football scholarships, Collinsworth with the University of Notre Dame and Grubbs with Miami University (Ohio).  The Highlands players were not the only Bluebirds garnering individual recognition.  Coach Dale Mueller received the Russell Athletic National High School Coach of the Year Award, which was presented during halftime of the US Army All-American Bowl.  Coach Mueller is the only Kentucky football coach to win this prestigious honor.  He was also named the Anthony Munoz Community Fund Coach of the Year and the Kentucky Class 5A, District 5 Coach of the Year.
             
 
2008 Season:
Fort Thomas Highlands captured the Kentucky Class 5A championship in 2008, repeating as state champion.  The Bluebirds had many players to replace from 2007's title squad, and one of Highlands' best returning players, running back Josh Conner, fractured his fibula in the last preseason scrimmage, causing him to miss most of the regular season.  Despite these challenges, the team went 14-1 in 2008, after going 1-1 during the 2008 preseason.  The school's sole loss occurred in week two against powerhouse Cincinnati Colerain, who was ranked first nationally by Massey Ratings at the time of the game.  The 'Birds fell to the host Cardinals 33-18.  This was the only blemish on the Bluebirds' record, however.  Highlands dominated district rivals Covington Holmes, Dixie Heights, Scott and Covington Catholic in the regular season.  The Highlands-Covington Catholic game was especially lopsided, with the 'Birds blanking the Colonels 61-0.  The Bluebirds also handily defeated Kentucky Class 6A Ryle in the season opener, Class 5A Hopkinsville and Class 6A Madison Central.  In addition, Highlands shut out two defending state champions during the 2008 regular season, Class 4A Lexington Catholic (41-0) and Class 3A Louisville Central (28-0).  Central then went on to repeat as Class 3A state champion in 2008.  During the postseason, Highlands survived a major scare in the first round against athletic Lexington Bryan Station, pulling out the win by a score of 28-22 in the final minutes of the game.  After blowing out storied Ashland Paul Blazer in round two of the state playoffs, Highlands traveled deep into eastern Kentucky to face Class 5A power Johnson Central.  The game was tied at halftime, but the 'Birds focused their efforts in the second half, winning the game 35-21.  Highlands handled Whitley County in the state semifinal game, then defeated Christian County 35-15 in the Class 5A state championship game to win the program's 18th official football title (and 21st football title overall).  The Highlands offense was especially potent and diverse in 2008.  Quarterback Tony Guidugli proved to be both a passing and a running threat, and the team's group of receivers, including star player Austin Collinsworth (son of former Cincinnati Bengals great Cris Collinsworth), Nick Buten and Brandon Roller gave defenses fits all year long.  Running backs Clint Crawford, Oliver Head and Tyler Fennell were all outstanding in filling in for the injured Josh Conner, who returned to action late in the regular season and made significant contributions during the postseason.  The defense also played very well in 2008, posting three consecutive shutouts at the end of the regular season.  Highlands finished 2008 as Kentucky Class 5A state champion, Class 5A, Region 3 champion, Class 5A, District 5 champion and NKAC champion.  The Highlands junior varsity (JV) team finished 2008 with a 7-3 record, and the Highlands freshman team finished the year 8-2 and Northern Kentucky freshman runner-up champion.

At the conclusion of the 2008 season, quarterback Tony Guidugli was selected as one of the top 100 athletes identified for the 2008 "Joe Montana High School Quarterback of the Year Award," the only player selected from Kentucky.  Lineman Adam Dempsey was named a finalist for the prestigious 2008 Northern Kentucky Football Coaches Association (NKFCA) "That's My Boy Award."  Receiver Austin Collinsworth, offensive lineman Adam Dempsey and defensive lineman Kody Rosenhagen were all named first-team Kentucky Associated Press All-State in 2008.
   
  
2007 Season:
The Fort Thomas Highlands Bluebirds returned to championship form in 2007, capturing Kentucky's first-ever Class 5A state title and posting a perfect 15-0 season, the program's state-record 11th undefeated season.  The KHSAA adopted a six-class football alignment in 2007, based on student enrollment, and Highlands petitioned and was granted permission to compete in Class 5A, even though the school is the size of a Class 3A program.  After moving through the preseason with a 2-0 record against Class 6A power Louisville Male and eventual Class 1A champion Beechwood, the 'Birds went 10-0 during the regular season, defeating two eventual state champions along the way, Class 3A Louisville Central and Class 4A Lexington Catholic.  Highlands also knocked off defending state champion Covington Catholic during the regular season.  The highlight of the regular season for Highlands was undoubtedly the team's win over Ohio Division II power Trotwood-Madison in the 2007 Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge III, held at the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium.  The "Herbie" is considered the nation's most prestigious high school football event and Highlands was the only Kentucky school invited to participate in 2007.  The win was especially impressive, given that Trotwood-Madison had several NCAA Division I-A prospects on the team.  The Bluebirds ran through the postseason, defeating archrival Covington Catholic 40-0 to win the Kentucky Class 5A, District 5 championship en route to a convincing 28-7 victory over Bowling Green in the Class 5A state title game, the program's 17th official state championship in football.  Highlands was the only team in the entire state of Kentucky to go undefeated in 2007.  At the end of the year, Highlands was ranked first, regardless of football classification, in all of Northern Kentucky in the Northern Kentucky coaches' poll, and second in all of Kentucky, regardless of football classification, by Kenneth Massey.  The Highlands Bluebirds also cracked the national rankings, finishing the year ranked 21st by MaxPreps.  The 'Birds finished 2007 as Kentucky Class 5A champion, Class 5A regional champion, Class 5A, District 5 champion, and NKAC champion.  Highlands' junior varsity (JV) team finished 2007 with an impressive 9-1 record and undefeated against Kentucky competition.  Highlands' freshman team finished the season 6-4 and Northern Kentucky freshman runner-up.

Following the end of the season, Coach Dale Mueller was named Coach of the Year by the Northern Kentucky Football Coaches Association (NKFCA), and offensive lineman/linebacker Ryan Ball was selected as a "Top 24" honoree by the NKFCA.  Offensive lineman Alex Hempfling and linebacker Luke Stein were named 2007 first-team Kentucky Associated Press All-State.  Quarterback Clay Cecil was named 2007 Kentucky Class 5A, District 5 Player of the Year.