H.S. football: Cardinals control county after early scare from Warhawks

Two minutes into the second quarter of Saturday night’s sixth football Battle of the Birds, Scott County trailed by a touchdown, hadn’t scored a point and lined up 99 yards away from the end zone.

Yes, it was a punch in the mouth (or two, or three) SC admittedly wasn’t expecting from cross-town challenger Great Crossing.

It was also a perfect situation for the Cards to unleash a punishing drive straight out of their standard operating procedure and send a message that this storm-delayed showdown would be business as usual.

SC scored on that drive — a veritable Ellis Huguely show — and every other full series for the duration of a 35-14 victory at Birds Nest Stadium.

“We had a fumble. We never really thought it was gonna do nothing to us,” Huguely said. “We never really believed they had a shot of winning.”

Huguely finished with 189 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns to earn Georgetown Community Hospital player of the game honors. Jacob Fryman polished off the other two scoring marches.

With Huguely (15 carries for 151 yards) and Fryman (24 carries for 137 yards) at the forefront, Scott County (2-0) stacked up 421 of its 492 total yards on the ground.

That took place behind a reloaded offensive line on which junior Cristian Rodriguez is the only returning starter. Caden Taylor, Cedric Dunn, Anthony Crace, Jayden James and Brad Horn have also helped with the heavy lifting to complement SC’s across-the-board talent at the so-called skill positions.

“Coach Fee (Jalen Menefee, offensive line coach) told us we were gonna run it down their throat and make them like it,” senior halfback Thomas Feickert said. “They are young, but a lot of credit to them, because they came out firing from the start.”

After Fryman’s fumble on the first play from scrimmage led to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jeremiah Clark to Hunter Moody and a quick GC lead, SC achieved payback in triplicate with a fumble recovery by Antonio Frye and interceptions by Justin Stevenson and Paul Garner.

Garner picked a pass for the second straight game on the very next play after his late hit out of bounds against Clark offered the Warhawks a thin glimmer of hope early in the fourth quarter.

“It feels awesome. I didn’t purposely mean to hit him out of bounds, but the pick I felt really good about,” said Garner, a fifth-year senior safety. “This is an emotional game. Both teams, they’re competing. Everybody just wants to win, and we’re 6-0 (against them).”

Great Crossing (0-2) never got to run another offensive play after Garner picked off Clark with 10:19 remaining in the game. The Cardinals drained the clock with 13 consecutive runs and a knee-down by quarterback Andrew Hickey.

“The line blocked good. Four out of the five are new,” SC coach Jim McKee said. “This old, antique Wing-T pumped out 492 yards with four new starters on the offensive line. We’ll just try to see if we can sneak by another opponent next week in this antique offense,”

Down by two scores after Scott County scored 21 points in a second-quarter span of three minutes and nine seconds, Great Crossing stayed alive thanks to Isaiah Johnson’s 37-yard explosion to the SC 8 just out of the half.

Johnson finished the drive two plays later with a 4-yard, second-effort surge, and Jack Herald’s extra point made it 21-14 with 9:28 remaining in the third quarter.
Great Crossing trailed Franklin County, 23-0, midway through the third quarter a week ago and rallied to nearly win its opener.
“We knew we were OK. We had the ball coming out. We knew we had to be explosive and go right back to our running game. That’s what we did. We executed it very well,” GC coach Ricky Bowling said. “After that drive offensively, it seems like we had a penalty that cost us, the interception, and then you’re done. Playing Coach McKee’s Wing-T, you’re not gonna get a lot of opportunities.”

SC responded with an eight-play, 74-yard march.

Separate 15-yard runs by Feickert and Huguely set up Huguely’s 22-yard burst on a counter criss-cross with nary a green jersey in sight.

“I knew immediately that the middle linebacker swouldn’t come very aggressive,” Huguely said. “Once we saw we had the power, we were gonna go with power to either me or Thomas, either way.”

The Cardinals’ defense made another stop to set up Fryman’s 4-yard insurance plunge with 11:19 to go. A pair of 24-yard chunk plays set the table: Fryman’s run, then Andrew Hickey’s strike to Eli Lilly on third-and-12.

Luke Valencia’s nine tackles led a restructured SC defence, with Ben Camp, Elijah Valencia and Jacob Blair leading a collective effort in the middle to compensate for the loss of senior star Ja’Sante Harmon to a season-ending knee injury.

“Somebody’s just got to step up and take Harmon’s spot,” said Blair, who had a hand in seven tackles. “He’s a big role player. Somebody’s got to fill his shoes with him. He got to step up and be a leader.”

Elijah “Boom” Fryman’s fumble recovery delivered the early haymaker

for Great Crossing’s defense at the Scott County 42.

Clark connected with Moody for 12 and 10 yards on consecutive plays to cap the drive, the latter a sliding catch in the end zone.

The Warhawks set aside the spread attack it primarily employed in week one and dusted off an option offense with which it tasted success in years past. It allowed GC’s power running game with Johnson and Michael Pettigrew to exploit the middle and soften up the secondary for the two early strikes.

“We’ve worked that since spring. That is part of our offense,” Bowling said. “We knew this was a big game for us. We felt like we could have success with it. We’ve had success with it at times in years past, and we had success with it tonight. We finally got Isaiah and Mike in a rotation, keeping them fresh, and they both did a really good job for us.”

Scott County’s early deficit was at least partially owed to that element of surprise.

“We had not prepared for that offense at all,” McKee said. “That’s something they had never shown (this season), that Army/Navy triple option, I was really proud of our kids. Nobody even blinked.”

Nor did the Cardinals’ offense after hiccups on their first two possessions.
SC went back to Fryman repeatedly on what had the look of a game-tying drive. Donald Quinn, Brosnan Santizo and Robbie Tackett buckled down with stops in the red zone, however, and Rylan Dykes blew up what was intended to be a halfback option pass from Huguely on fourth down.

“I don’t know that we could have played any worse in the first quarter. Fumbled on the first play, gave them great field position. Then we drive down there and I called a stupid halfback pass against the blitz,” McKee said.
“We should have scored on the first drive. I didn’t get their defensive alignment mastered until the second drive. Once I realized how they were playing our motion, then I knew we could have a lot of success.”

The next trickery was courtesy of Caden Bays on a successful run to move the chains on a Great Crossing fake punt. That drive reached the SC 30 before the Cards twice stopped Pettigrew and forced an incomplete pass.

“They completely changed their offense from what we scouted,” Garner said. “They ran none of that under center against Franklin County. We made adjustments and we pretty much handled it after that.”

The Warhawks downed Clark’s pooch punt at the 2, and a sideline violation against SC backed it up half the distance to the cusp of the goal line.

“We come out, drive right down and score,” Bowling said. “We got the ball back, could have made it 14-0. We have a dropped ball that’s probably a touchdown. Then it goes the other way and all of a sudden you’re down two scores.”

Huguely rushed for 70 of the 99 yards on the Cardinals’ eight-play, end-to-end excursion.

“I think it sets the tone. It made us realize this ain’t no cupcake team,” Feickert said of the Warhawks’ early challenge. “They’re still a good football team. We didn’t come out strong like we should have.”

Frye’s scoop and a 20-yard scamper by Timmy Emongo led to Fryman’s 1-yard go-ahead rush.

“Our offense was unstoppable tonight,” said Luke Valencia, a senior linebacker. “Shout-out to them. We got ’em one stop, and they just did the job.”

Stevenson then picked off Clark in the right flat on a third-and-short. SC immediately went skyward in play action with Hickey, and Huguely made an adjustment to win a jump ball with Quinn at the 10-yard line before spinning away for the score.

“Again we hurt ourselves more than we helped at times,” Bowling said. “I felt like we ran the ball really well. We had a game plan. I felt like it worked. It was pretty successful. I made a couple bonehead calls probably that turned into a couple turnovers.”

Luke Valencia buried another fake punt try, this one by Pettigrew. Time and timeouts simply weren’t on Scott County’s side, with a run by Huguely tripped up at the GC 15 as time expired.

“After the first drive I thought our defense played really, really well,” McKee said. “It’s hard to adjust to an option offense. You’ve got to take your game plan you’ve worked on the whole week and dump it. You don’t see option offend much any more.”

Scott County improved to 6-0 all-time in the series, with five regular-season wins and another in the 2021 playoffs.

The teams can no longer meet in the postseason, thanks to GC moving up to Class 6A and SC staying in 5A due to the schools’ current enrollments.

“Just that they ain’t ever gonna be able to beat us,” Blair said of the message his team sent, “They’re our cross-town rivals. I’m a senior, so saying that they never beat me is something to be proud of.”

Zach Morris (12 tackles), Logan Clayton, Fryman and Peyton Mullannix were outstanding for GC’s defence, which spent nearly 30 of the game’s 48 minutes on the field. Scott County pounded out 28 first downs.

Pettigrew and Johnson combined for 25 carries and 137 yards.

“Really proud of the kids. I felt like you

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