"They did a great job defensively on us all night," Boyle coach Chuck Smith said. "We moved the ball well, but made too many key mistakes in the red zone (inside the 20-yard line). They really got after us and deserved to win the game. We had a long way to go before the game, and as you can see, we obviously still have a way to go to be a championship team."
Michael Mitchell, a transfer from Covington Catholic, rushed for 156 yards on 10 carries and got Highlands on the scoreboard with a 73-yard run in the first quarter, remembered the two losses Boyle handed the Bluebirds vividly. The Rebels also beat Highlands by one point during the regular season.
"We have been waiting for this game a long time," Mitchell said. "We kept hearing from our coaches how Boyle had out-Highlanded Highlands. Tonight we out-Boyled Boyle at their own game."
Evan Teague, who led the Rebels with 88 yards on three catches, had a 46-yard reception to help Boyle (3-2) reach the Highlands 16-yard line following Mitchell's score, but Quinn Givhan was jarred loose from a potential touchdown catch on the ensuing play. Givhan was injured on the play and was later taken to a local hospital for observation.
"(Assistant head coach and defensive coordinator) Brian Weinrich had an outstanding game plan for us and it worked to perfection," said Highlands coach Dale Mueller. "Boyle is still the defending five-time state champions and to be able to shut them out was fantastic. The defensive play of the game, though, was Mitchell's hit (on Givhan) in the end zone. If he makes that catch, we are in for a ball game."
Mitchell broke free again for a 61-yard gain on the first play after Highlands took over on downs and junior quarterback Chad Hudepohl connected with Ben Guidugli for a 25-yard touchdown three plays later to give the Bluebirds a 14-0 lead at the half.
Boyle was held to minus-1 yard rushing and just 96 yards passing during the first half.
Two golden opportunities to score
The Rebels had two golden opportunities to score in the third period only to have a fumble and interception turn them away inside the red zone. Brandon Smith, the state's fourth-ranked passer entering the game, was 15-for-28 passing for 215 yards with two interceptions.
"Our desire isn't there and it hasn't been all year long," Smith said. "I noticed it at camp and it is obviously is beginning to show when we play good teams. We didn't respond to the turnovers and missed opportunities like a true champion would. They ran the one play around the end and we stopped it a couple times, but we have had problems stopping it consistently all year."
Once again, the Bluebirds seized the chance to tack on more points when Robbie Peterman, who ran for 109 yards on eight carries, found a seam on the left side of the Boyle defense and went 91 yards to score and put a dagger in Boyle's chances to come back.
"We are not going to win a championship until we learn to play every play," the Boyle coach added. "What it boils down to is they wanted it more than we did, and that's what is so disappointing. Obviously having a bye week next week will leave a bad taste in our mouths for two weeks."
Mueller said a win at this time of the year still won't win a state title, but it was better than the alternative.
"We wanted this game a lot, but really what we want is a win in December," the Highlands coach said. "These games are played to make us a better team at playoff time. This game doesn't count at all as to who wins the state championship."