Hiring of a new head coach sparks hope for the return of the Highlands football dynasty


Will Todd

Head football coach Eddie James greets kicker Davis Burleigh as he talks with many of the players before his press conference.

UPDATE: Shocking news strikes mere days after hiring of new head football coach


     A new face will be walking the sidelines for the upcoming football season. After the 2020 football season, Highlands High School pursued a new head football coach with a brand new mindset to lead the Bluebirds.

     On Saturday, January 9, Fort Thomas Independent Schools announced the hiring of former Franklin County High School (FCHS) Head Coach Eddie James. James graduated from FCHS and from the University of the Cumberlands. He has held coaching positions at Boyle County High School (BCHS) and FCHS as an assistant coach before his promotion to head coach of the Franklin County Flyers in 2017 after they finished the season with a 5-7 record. 

     James led the Flyers from a 5-6 record to an 8-2 record with a 31-28 loss in overtime to 4A powerhouse BCHS in the state championship game in just three years. His all-time record as head coach is 29-6. 

     James said that his offensive scheme will be based on a spread offense and the addition or subtraction of some positions will come down to size and skill. He said that if they work better without tight ends then they will simply not have tight ends on offense and if they work very well with tight ends they will be a part of the offensive scheme. At FCHS, the two players who played tight end were 240 pounds and 230 pounds.

     He also said that he will start a player both ways if he feels that that athlete is the best at that position on both sides of the ball. The defensive philosophy will evidently come down to the assistant coaches that will be hired. 

     “The Highlands Bluebirds represent one of the true blood programs in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and a gold standard when it comes to excellence,” James said. 

     Principal Matthew Bertasso claimed James’ clear, energetic vision for what Highlands football will embody both on the field and in the community is what separated him from the other candidates. 

     “…everyone who wears an ‘H’ in our program will represent Highlands in a first-class manner on the field, in the classroom, and in the community. That’s my expectation,” James expressed. 

     Football is seen as the heart of the Fort Thomas community and anybody who follows high school football knows who and what Highlands High School football is. The Bluebirds have 23 state championships, second only behind Louisville’s Trinity High School Shamrocks. Highlands is just one out of five programs in the nation to surpass 900 wins in school history with 906 wins which puts them at fifth behind Maysville High School’s 906 wins. 

     James teaches special education along with his wife Nikki and the couple has two children, six-year-old Ava and three-year-old Jax.  The family plans on moving to the Northern Kentucky area in the coming months. 

     “I am very eager to work with the great student-athletes in Fort Thomas to restore a championship tradition on the football field,” James expressed.