To use a college football analogy, Friday night’s homecoming game for Scott County was Alabama vs. New Mexico State, Clemson vs. The Citadel, or for the real history buffs, Georgia Tech vs. Cumberland.
Everything coaches preach about “any given day” is almost always true. Indianapolis visitor Emmerich Manual was no threat to SC on this evening or this season, though, and the Cardinals knew it.
With far weightier fish to fry a week from now, taking care of business early and enjoying the ambience was the ideal scenario, and Scott County made it happen in a 52-16 rout that wasn’t remotely that close.
The starting offense packed up after scoring on four of its first seven plays. Combine that with a blocked punt for a touchdown – the fourth consecutive week that SC’s defense or special teams has found the end zone – and it was 35-0 with 4:13 remaining in the first quarter.
Aaron Prater’s first of two touchdowns pushed it to a running clock 78 seconds into the second stanza.
“I think all of our starters are rested and ready for next week,” said senior fullback Philip Garner, who also had two scores, his 12th and 13th of the season. “The focus all week was just on Douglass, to be honest.”
Scott County (5-0) makes the 16-mile trip to Frederick Douglass (5-0) next Friday for a showdown between two of the consensus top three teams in Class 5A. It will be their fifth meeting in 24 months.
Emmerich Manual, a charter school of just under 700 students that was winless against four opponents in its own neighborhood, didn’t have the horses to muster points or even positive yardage until SC’s starting defense stepped aside, as well.
“It’s kind of what was expected,” senior quarterback Cade McKee said. “We had a light week of practice, just coming back off the win last week. We got Sunday off and Monday off, too, which is not normal. We knew what to expect, so we just came in and did what we had to do.”
The Redskins’ first five drives of night were three-and-out. The sixth ended in an interception by Campton Martin.
And when it was the Cardinals’ turn, as was the case against Great Crossing and Bryan Station in two similar prior matchups, they poured it on.
Jeremy Hamilton got it started with a 33-yard TD run on SC’s third play from scrimmage. Bronson Brown set it up with a ramble for 25.
“I think you’ve always got to prepare your own team no matter what, and your biggest focus has always got to be yourself, and making you as good as you can be,” SC coach Jim McKee said of the two-pronged preparation this week.
Three penalties on its initial drive forced EM to punt from near its goal line, and a 19-yard return by Sam Daniel put the Cards right back in the red zone.
Garner was barely touched on a 16-yard scoring slash up the middle. Jacob Bange continued his perfect night – seven PATs and a field goal – to make it 14-0.
Scott County blocked back-to-back punts to double that margin short order. A sack by Alex Patton set up the first swat by Cheney Harris, which he also covered in the back of the end zone.
Tackles for loss by John Hulette and Alex Patton had the Redskins reeling on their next series. Jaxon Saylor broke through the line and batted Zachary Tewell’s kick this time, with Trent Bowden making the recovery at the 8.
Mikaleb Coffey promptly scored on a reverse.
After Garner’s 73 yards on four carries, the next three top ground-gainers were from SC’s second wave of Bryson Gibson (nine for 60), Prater (nine for 43) and Luke Colvin (two for 38).
“I honestly don’t like it. I’d rather have some close games to get us ready for Douglass, but at the same time, all of our starters are healthy, and everyone’s going to be ready and prepared,” Garner said. “It was a great atmosphere. Even though it was a blowout, it was still a very fun game.”
Garner gobbled up 48 on another one-play “drive” at the 4:13 mark of the opening period.
Even though Bange’s kick left the Cards one point shy of the running clock threshold at that point, the first-string offense punched out.
“In my opinion, it doesn’t matter, because we’ve got to come out next week and execute, and it all starts in practice next week, starting on Sunday when we come in for lift,” Cade McKee said. “Everybody’s got to be locked in and focused on the task at hand. It doesn’t matter what we did in the past or what we’ve got in the future. It’s all about this week.”
Prater set up his 1-yard TD run in the second quarter with a spinning, second-effort surge for a dozen on the previous play.
Bange put the exclamation point on the half with a 24-yard field goal.
Jermain Thomas’ 1-yard TD got Emmerich Manual on the board at 7:50 of the third quarter. Prater answered with an 11-yard score.
D’Fayeveon Pittman, a strong-armed sophomore quarterback, found Robert Orkman for a sliding, 17-yard scoring grab to supply the only points of the fourth period. Pittman was 11-for-19 for 168 yards.
Mismatches breed mismatches. The main reason SC hosted the first-time opponent is that few Lexington teams are eager to schedule the Cards after years of one-sided games and no more 6A district requirements.
The Cards’ philosophical coach said he tried to make the most of it.
“I can’t coach forever, and I know that, but I took a picture of Conner (Willhite, team manager) on the sideline with me, and his dad (Chris) played here and his brother (Andrew) was out there tonight. It just means a lot to a lot of people. It’s a fun place. I love it,” McKee said.
“Thursdays are when we watch our JV film. That’s always a big learning experience for those guys, and when they get in there (in varsity blowouts), we want them to be able to function.”