When the Boyle County High School football team beat his Highlands squad in 2003 for its record fifth straight state championship, Bluebirds coach Dale Mueller decided the program needed a change.
“We said that Boyle was ‘out-Highlandsing’ Highlands,” Mueller said. “Highlands was the one that’s supposed to work as hard as anybody in the state. But Boyle was outworking us. … Boyle was like 11 Marines. We had to be like 11 Navy SEALs.”
So the Bluebirds revamped their off-season program and now enter the 2012 campaign with a chance to eclipse Boyle County’s record.
Highlands, the preseason No. 1 pick in Class 4-A, can become the first Kentucky football program ever to win six consecutive state championships. The Bluebirds won four straight 5-A titles from 2007-10 and won the 4-A crown last year, beating Franklin-Simpson 42-14 in the championship game.
Highlands sports a 73-2 record during the five-year run, losing only to Cincinnati Colerain in 2008 and Ryle in 2010.
Mueller, whose Highlands squad ended Boyle County’s five-year run by beating the Rebels 22-6 in the 2004 3-A final, said a record sixth straight title isn’t a specific goal for this season.
“It’s nice to be a part of this thing that could be six in a row, but that’s more for the community and myself and adults,” Mueller said. “This year is about these guys on this year’s team. … We want to win this one this year. We want to win one in a row.”
The Bluebirds will have to do it without quarterback Patrick Towles, who was Kentucky’s Mr. Football winner last season and now is a freshman at the University of Kentucky.
The job now belongs to senior Donovan McCoy, who played wide receiver last year but was a quarterback on the freshman and junior-varsity teams his first two seasons.
“He played receiver last year because he’s such a great athlete and we couldn’t keep him off the field and he wasn’t going to be ahead of Patrick (at quarterback),” Mueller said. “He has a cannon for an arm … and he’d be a great option quarterback if we ran the option.”
Junior Zach Harris will be the No. 1 running back, and Mueller said he has 10 receivers who could see playing time, led by seniors Colin Seidl and Jac Collinsworth.
Lineman Seth Hope and linebacker Thomas Wrobleski, both juniors, lead the defense.
Highlands will open its season Friday at home against Boyle County and could face the Rebels again in the state semifinals if both teams make it that far.
Whatever the outcome of this season, Mueller can thank Boyle County for giving his program a wake-up call in 2003.
“It was a punch in the nose because we looked at them and realized they were doing it better than we were doing it,” Mueller said. “We had to go to a different level, and we did.”
Kentucky high school football teams that have won at least four consecutive state championships:
5 – Boyle County (1999-2003)
5 – Highlands (2007-2011)
4 – Beechwood (1991-1994)
4 – Trinity (2005-2008)