Vaught's Views: Highlands will make Title Town teams better

September 17, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Adding both Boyle County and Danville to his 2003 and 2004 schedules might not have been the best way for Dale Mueller to get his team more wins.

But adding those two games each year could help Highlands regain its place as one of the state's premier teams and, in Mueller's mind, that more than justified adding the teams from Title Town.

"I think I added both of them right before I entered drug rehab," said Mueller. "Now that I am seeing clearer, I'm not sure it was a great idea. Or I bet that's what a lot of people might be thinking and saying.

"Seriously, our goal every year is to play as many good teams as we can before we start district play. If you just play teams early that you can beat, those teams will never expose where you need to make improvement. We know Boyle County and Danville will expose a lot of areas where we need work."


Actually, it should work the same for Danville and Boyle. The Bluebirds "only" won 19 games the last two years and have not won a state title since 2000. However, they did win four in a five-year span before that and have 15 state football championships overall.

Highlands plays at Boyle Friday in a matchup of unbeaten teams before returning home to host the Admirals Sept. 26.

Friday's game could easily be a state title preview. Highlands and Lexington Catholic are considered the top teams in one side of the Class AAA playoff bracket. Boyle, Paducah Tilghman, Hopkinsville and Bowling Green head the other side.

"Highlands is a good game for us to gauge what the eastern half of the state bracket has," Boyle coach Chuck Smith said. "They are always going to have a good team and be one of the state title contenders. It will be another high-profile game that's fun for everyone."

Danville has already played Class AAAA Manual, which upset Trinity the third week of the season, and Boyle. Few Class A teams would then have the nerve to add another non-district game with a traditional power like Highlands.

"We just thought it would be a good game for our kids and another way to test our program," Danville coach Sam Harp said. "It's a long way to travel for a regular-season game, but I think this is the kind of game that will make our team better."

It will. Just like the Boyle-Highlands game will make both teams better, too.

Highlands will not be intimidated by either matchup

Don't look for Highlands to be intimidated by either matchup. The Bluebirds are used to high-profile games like a Danville-Boyle matchup.

Highlands used to have a series with Male. It played Cincinnati Elder at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati last year and will again in 2004. This season it has already played three Class AAAA teams and Class AAA Central, which upset Male the week after it lost to Highlands.

"If you are trying to win a state title, you have to look at the big picture," Mueller said. "It doesn't matter if you are 5-5 at the end of the season as long as you win the district and get the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs."

The Boyle-Highlands and Danville-Highlands games should be two of the marquee games in the state the next two weeks just as the Danville-Boyle game was earlier this season. There should be an overflow crowd at Boyle Friday to see two of the state's best teams - the Durden Ratings have Boyle fourth and Highlands 18th - just as there will be at Highlands Sept. 26.

Hopefully the games will be so good both years that each series can continue well past 2004.

"I'll tell you more after Friday," Smith said, laughing. "Maybe after that it won't seem like such a good idea to us because they are really good."

"We'll just have to see how everything goes with the travel, but I think it could be an interesting series," Harp said.

Mueller is the most optimistic and enthusiastic about future games against the Title Town teams.

"We absolutely want the series to continue," Mueller said. "Players like playing in high-profile games. Playing Danville and Boyle County is going to be awesome."

He's right and here's hoping Friday is the start of an annual trip to Title Town for Highlands, a team that knows just as much about winning and titles as the two football powers here and provides the perfect non-district opponent for each team.

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