Option threat

Great Crossing quarterback Kalib Perry found room to roam in the game at Grant County two weeks ago, and it helped the Warhawks to their first-ever victory. The reward is a playoff game with undefeated Frederick Douglass on Thursday night.

It's a dubious honor, to say the least.

As the reward for its first-ever win as a program two weeks ago, Great Crossing football slid into the fourth and final district playoff position.

That means GC (1-9) gets another chance to stand toe-to-toe with a giant when it travels to Frederick Douglass (10-0) for a 7:30 p.m. Class 5A first-round game.

The Broncos shut out seven consecutive opponents between a 62-14 rout of Tates Creek and a 42-31 verdict last week over Lexington Catholic. In other words, only teams with a future Division I quarterback have scored against FD this season.

In three years, the Broncos have never lost to a team from Lexington. They've celebrated back-to-back undefeated regular seasons.

Aside from perhaps 6A Trinity, which won decisively over Douglass in the preseason, no team in the state has a larger delegation of players with major college recruiters in hot pursuit than the Broncos.

Frederick Douglass enters the playoffs arguably as the 5A co-favorite along with Covington Catholic. Oh, and it handled Great Crossing, 50-0, when the teams met for the first time.

So what's the good news?

For starters, 31 high school football teams in Kentucky — almost matching the full number that will compete in each bracket — didn't earn the privilege of playing a game this weekend.

Grant County won four games and was a few yards away from possibly taking Great Crossing to overtime, but the Warhawks stood tall and punched their playoff ticket.

College coaches often say that the greatest value to earning even a lower-tier bowl invitation is the extra month of practice, then the chance to compete against a good opponent while many other teams are sitting at home.

The same is true in high school, and especially for an upstart program. Four or five extra workouts, and some added game exposure the freshmen and sophomores that dominate GC's roster, will help set the bar for what the program wants to accomplish in 2020 and beyond.

It's standard fare to say anything can happen in the playoffs, although in football, where size, speed and physical strength are paramount, Frederick Douglass is the clear, overwhelming favorite on paper this week.

Josh McClurg (1,783 combined yards, 23 total touchdowns) has been the ultimate dual threat quarterback. His two primary running backs, Darius and Devin Neal, run behind a line that features nationally ranked prospects Walker Parks and Jager Burton at tackle. Top receiver Dane Key has scored touchdowns as a receiver, runner and returner.

Douglass' defense has logged an astonishing 90 tackles for loss, paced by Parks, Romarion Warner and Davis Joyner.

There shouldn't be a fear factor for Great Crossing. The Warhawks already have seen the Broncos, along no shortage of other talented opponents. After Thursday's game, the collective winning percentage of teams on GC's schedule will be around .667, an absurdly tough slate for a first-year program.

The Warhawks have showed vast improvement in recent weeks by using freshman Kaspen Colbert and senior Trent Allen to grind out yards up the middle and set up home run hitters Kalib Perry, Caleb Griggs and Markeese Dean on the outside.

If GC can gain some early first downs, shorten the game and perhaps pop a big gain or two, it would make this a night to grow on, no matter how the scoreboard reads at night's end.

Kal Oakes can be reached via email at sports@news-graphic.com.

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