ALEXANDRIA, Ky. – Highlands jumped out to a 23-0 first quarter lead thanks to new starting quarterback Beau Hoge.
But the Bluebirds had to hold off a late rally to edge Campbell County, 23-16 at the Campbell County Athletic Complex on Friday.
It was the Highlands defense that scored first when Donnie Mills sacked Campbell County quarterback Carson Plessinger in the end zone to take a 2-0 advantage.
On the free kick, Highlands returned the ball to the Camels 40 yard line. On the first ensuing play, Hoge threw a 40-yard strike to wide receiver Alex Veneman for a quick 9-0 lead.
The Highlands defense was stellar in the first quarter and held Campbell County’s offense at bay, only allowing the Camels to cross midfield once in the first half.
On the other side of the ball, Hoge was able to make plays with his arm and his legs. For the game, the son of former NFL running back Merril Hoge went 15-for-25 passing for 183 yards and the previously mentioned touchdown. On the ground, Hoge gained 96 yards on 12 carries including touchdown runs of 15 and 27 yards.
Hoge’s second rushing touchdown with 32.9 seconds left in the first quarter appeared to be the nail in the Campbell County coffin.
Hoge downplayed his scrambling ability when escaping the pocket and explained that it’s not a part of the game plan for the Highlands offensive scheme.
“I have the ability to run but honestly there were a couple of times I didn’t need to run. I missed some easy reads right of the bat,” Hoge said. “It looks fun and exciting but it’s not what we want.”
The Camels regrouped in the second half thanks in large part to Plessinger. The former running back and linebacker put the offense on his back. The junior was responsible for 215 of the 254 yards of total offense for Campbell and scored all 16 points.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Plessinger scored on a two-yard plunge and ran in the 2-point conversion. This cut the Highlands lead to 15, 23-8.
Late in the quarter, Plessinger’s arm setup another score when he connected on a 56-yard pass play with Matt Mayer. Mayer was tackled from behind at the 4 yard line, but Plessinger took care of the rest with another rushing touchdown and 2-point conversion with 2:06 left to play.
However, it was too little, too late for the Camels as Highlands ran out the clock and escaped with the win.
Highlands outgained Campbell County in total offense, 396-254 but committed 14 penalties for 122 yards.
It was the first game as head coach for Highlands’ Brian Weinrich, who was previously the team’s defensive coordinator. He replaced the retired Dale Mueller in the off-season.
Both teams will go on the road next week as Highlands will play in Lexington against the Bryan Station Defenders. Campbell County will travel to Newport Stadium and take on NewCath in a Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown game.