Football: A magical season closes for Highlands

Written by Justin Criado on .

Justin Criado profiles the Highlands football team.

"In August, Highlands coach Sam Albert wouldn't dare talk expectations for his 2014 Golden Rams squad.

All he knew was he had to fill some key positions with new players, most notably the offensive line.

"Not one offensive lineman has ever started a game or taken a snap," Albert said of his Week 1 starters.

As if things couldn't be more ominous, starting quarterback Blake Leri was injured on the third play of the opening game against Ford City, but despite the fresh faces and unexpected injury Highlands won, 37-14."


Football: 'Unsung heroes' help Highlands go 6-0

Written by Marky Billson on .

Marky Billson profiles the Highlands football team.

"While the most prominent player on the Highlands football team this season has been running back Elijah Jackson, the Golden Rams (6-0, 6-0) have two unsung heroes this season in their quest for the Greater Allegheny Conference championship — quarterback Brayden Thimons and right guard Nathan McKinney.

Thimons wasn't supposed to start at quarterback this season, but this 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore was thrust into the role after senior Blake Leri sprained a knee three plays into the 2014 season.

"He's just gotten better and better," Highlands coach Sam Albert said.

Thimons has completed 50 percent of his 36 passes for 430 yards."



Football: North Feature Athlete - Elijah Jackson, Highlands

Written by John D'Abruzzo on .

Name: ‭Elijah Jackson
High School:‭ ‬Highlands
Grade:‭ 12
Sport:‭ ‬Football
Position:‭ ‬Running back/Cornerback

Background:‭ A 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior running back, Jackson rushed for ‬213 yards and two touchdowns to guide Highlands (4-0, 4-0) to a Allegheny Conference win last week against Kittanning. Jackson scored on runs of 23 and 30 yards, respectively. Jackson is one of the top rushers in the WPIAL this season and averaging around 12 yards a carry. As a junior, he earned all-conference honors after rushing for 1,287 yards and 14 touchdowns.


Football: Highlands running back tough to catch

Written by Justin Criado on .

Justin Criado profiles Highlands running back Elijah Jackson.

"Highlands running back Elijah Jackson remembers what his coaches and teammates used to call him as a 140-pound freshman.

"My nickname was Flea," Jackson said.

Coach Sam Albert said it was because Jackson was quick and elusive as well as small, but now Albert has a much more fitting nickname for his starting running back.

"We call him Reggie for [Detroit Lions running back] Reggie Bush because we try to get him the ball every way possible," Albert said."



Highlands 2014 Football Preview

Written by Justin Criado on .

Highlands won't soon forget its playoff loss to Thomas Jefferson in last year's WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals, but as the Golden Rams make the switch to Class AA's Allegheny Conference, coach Sam Albert feels the road to Heinz Field will only get tougher.

"I was a head coach at Freeport, I know the types of athletes in the conference," said Albert, who coached the Yellowjackets for five seasons until assuming his current role at Highlands in 2004.

"It's going to be a very, very strong and competitive conference. We know that we're going to have our hands full."

Quarterback Blake Leri and running back Elijah Jackson, who led the team with 1,287 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns last season, return to a team that must replace 21 seniors who graduated after finishing 7-4 (6-2) in the tough Class AAA Greater Allegheny Conference.