FORT THOMAS — Beau Hoge is the latest quarterback to come off Highlands’ assembly line and lead the Bluebirds to the state finals.
Hoge, the son of former NFL player and current ESPN anaylst Merril Hoge, was one of Highlands’ stars in a 47-26 victory over Lexington Catholic in the Class 4A semifinals Friday night.
It was the Bluebirds’ 61st consecutive home-field win over a Kentucky opponent, and it put the 22-time state champions in the finals for the eighth year in a row.
They will meet Owensboro for the title in Bowling Green next Saturday afternoon. Owensboro beat North Oldham 27-24 in their semifinal.
Highlands has beaten Lexington Catholic in the semifinals four consecutive years, and it’s done it with four different quarterbacks.
In 2011, it was Patrick Towles. In 2012, it was Donovan McCoy. In 2013, it was Drew Houliston.
H o ge , a 6 - fo o t- 1 , 205-pound senior, finally got his turn this season, and he’s made the most of it.
He showed his dual-threat skills against Lexington Catholic. He passed for 181 yards and a touchdown, and ran 17 times for 147 yards and three TDs. On the season he’s thrown for 3,229 yards and 33 TDs, and run for 800 yards and 23 scores.
“He makes them tick,” Knights Coach Mark Perry said. “He makes plays with his feet and he makes plays with his arm. He basically makes you defend the whole field.”
Hoge, who has commited to BYU, said he never knows what will work until a game unfolds. Against Lexington Catholic, he did most of his damage in the first half and staked the Bluebirds to a 28-13 lead.
In the second half, senior running back Griffin Urlage carried the load. He ripped off a 67-yard TD run on the first snap of the third quarter, and added a 32-yard score.
He finished with 202 yards on 15 carries.
“Those two (Hoge and Urlage) have complemented each other since they were in first grade,” Highlands Coach Brian Weinrich said. “It’s been so cool to see them grow up together.”
Alex Veneman had eight catches for 106 yards and a TD for the Bluebirds.
Hoge credited his offensive line for protecting him and “being physical in the run game. When we need to manage the clock, we’re able to do it because of them.”
Highlands’ defense, led by Austin Beal, Daniel Kremer and D.J. Mills, was outstanding, too. It sacked Lexington Catholic quarteback Reese Ryan seven times, and it stuffed the Knights’ running game Counting the losses on sacks, the Knights finished with minus 38 yards on the ground.
“(Ryan) is a great player, so anytime they snap the ball and he doesn’t get rid of it, we’ll take that every time,” Weinrich said. “I can’t praise our ‘D’ enough.”
Knights running back Jaylen Jones, who was averaging 126 yards a game, ran 11 times for a net 2 yards.
“When they stopped the run, that made it tough on us,” Perry said. “They really got after us and did a nice job creating negative plays.“
Ryan still put up good numbers. He completed 31 of 48 passes for 351 yards and three TDs, but he felt the heat of the Highlands’ rush.
“They blitzed us all night,” Ryan said. “Our guys did all they could, but they brought too many guys and that threw us off.”
Donovan Morris had nine catches for 106 yards, including a 27-yard TD catch on fourth-and-23. J.J. Ogbogu had seven catches for 83 yards and a TD. Andy Thompson had five catches for 64 yards and a score.
Cody Mitchell had 13 tackles to lead the Knights’ defense. Chase Boling had 12.
But Lexington Catholic never could stop Highlands when it had to. The Bluebirds scored twice early in the third quarter to open a 38-13 lead, and it was at least a three-score spread the rest of the way.
“Our kids made a lot of plays tonight and competed to the last horn,” Perry said “But we just got beat by a little better team than us.”
HIGHLANDS 47, LEXINGTON CATHOLIC 26
Lexington Catholic . . . . . .7 6 7 6—26 Highlands . . . . . . . . . . . .21 7 16 3—47 LC—J.J. Ogbogu 35 pass from Reese Ryan (Donovan Morris kick). H—Beau Hoge 15 run (Jared Dougherty kick). H—Alex Veneman 24 pass from Hoge. (Dougherty kick). H—Hoge 1 run (Dougherty kick). H—Hoge 6 run (Dougherty kick). LC—Andy Thompson 24 pass from Ryan (kick failed). H—Griffin Urlage 67 run (Dougherty kick).H—Dougherty 21 field goal. LC—Donovan Morris 27 pass from Ryan (Morris kick). H—Urlage 32 run (run failed). LC—Ogbogu 3 run (pass failed). H—Dougherty 27 field goal.
Records—Lexington Catholic 10-4; Highlands 12-2