UNION — All the anger, frustration and embarrassment in the world wouldn’t allow the Scott County football team to change what happened on its previous road trip.
The only way to get a shutout loss to Frederick Douglass out of its system is a commitment to improve with every practice repetition and game snap between now and Nov. 15 — a date the Cardinals probably can recite in their sleep, when they’ll likely face the Broncos again.
That collective journey kicked off in style with a 57-21 demolition of Ryle on the Raiders’ homecoming Friday night at Borland Stadium.
“I’ve never been more embarrassed as a football player than I was walking off the field last week,” quarterback Cade McKee said. “It ate at me all weekend and all week in practice. We knew this was step number one to get back to where we want to be. We came out fired up and ready to roll.”
McKee completed five of eight passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns, one apiece to Mikaleb Coffey and Micah McClave.
McClave and Rylan Reed each blocked a punt. Campton Martin and Jeremy Hamilton both intercepted a pass.
On the ground, where Scott County (6-1) customarily excels, Bronson Brown banged out 16 carries for 174 yards and three scores, all in the first half. Philip Garner chalked up 12 runs for 124 yards and his Class 5A-leading 14th and 15th touchdowns of the season.
If it sounds like complete domination and business as usual, one week after that 36-0 wake-up call, you’re correct.
“I came out more physical than I usually do. I was trying to push my teammates. I texted them last night, telling ‘em we needed to step up our game. We couldn’t go out here and do what we did with Douglass,” Brown said. “Just go hard. We tried to come out here and destroy this team from the start.”
Scott County’s only drive of the night that didn’t end in points was a turnover on downs at the Ryle 12-yard line by the junior varsity late in the fourth quarter, long after the game went to a running clock.
A short touchdown run by Kyle English at the end of its opening series, a 90-yard kickoff return by Johnathan Coker, and Coker’s juggling Hail Mary grab on the final play of the game provided the few bright spots for Ryle (3-4).
“Like I told the kids, you can’t eat but one slice of humble pie at a time, and we ate ours pretty good tonight,” SC coach Jim McKee said. “We played well. We scored every time we had the ball, and last Friday we never scored at all. I’d say we did a lot better offensively.”
SC improved to 4-0 against Class 6A opponents. The Cards set the tone from the start with scoring drives of 80 and 87 yards.
A 28-yard connection from McKee to Coffey dug SC out of an early hole created by holding and false start penalties, the only eerie flashback to last week’s debacle.
Four plays later, Garner galloped 43 yards, untouched, to the end zone.
“We need to obviously not get those penalties, but you could just tell from the first snap how much more energy we had offensively,” Jim McKee said.
A juggling grab by Ryan Planck extended the first of two game-tying efforts by the Raiders. English evened the score with a 6-yard run.
Sixty-eight degrees at kickoff apparently served up the right conditions for Brown, a two-way star who enjoyed his biggest night of the season as a halfback. He had three runs of 14 yards or more to set up a 5-yard run that gave the Cards a 14-7 edge with 10:58 remaining in the half.
“I do like this weather, but I get cold,” Brown insisted. “I didn’t realize how cold it was until halftime. I was freezing.”
He stayed red-hot after Coker’s special teams gem tied it again. Montago Jones pounded out 24 yards before delivering the final block to set Brown free for a 33-yard TD.
Ryle went three-and-out before Reed’s punt block. That set the table for Brown’s third score, one on which he pancaked the would-be tackler at the goal line for emphasis.
“We were just trying to focus on getting those negatives out of the way and start looking at positives, trying to improve our pace and get our mindset right over these next couple games,” McClave said. “We have a great O-line. Bronson killed it. PG (Garner)killed it. You can’t complain playing on a great offense with a great group of guys.”
McClave both swatted and scooped Ryle’s next punt from midfield, racing all the way to the 14 before the Raiders took him down.
Coffey collected a jump ball in the back right corner of the end zone with 1:54 remaining. Jacob Bange’s fifth PAT of the half made it 35-14 at intermission.
“I threw it pretty good. Kind of just like last year, the passing game has struggled a little bit,” Cade McKee said. “It was an emphasis this week in practice to improve on that. We threw it more than I think we’ve thrown it all year. It was a focus, and I’m glad we executed.”
Scott County pushed the third quarter to mercy time in short order. After Ryle understandably bit on a fake to Brown, Garner barreled 44 yards to set up his own 10-yard score on the next play.
Hamilton’s interception in the end zone and 42-yard return fueled the finishing touch, consecutive McKee offerings of 21 yards to Coffey and 32 to McClave for six.
Jones’ two-point rush kept the clock running for good.
Bryson Gibson tacked on a 9-yard TD run for the Cardinals, who will host the final three games of the regular season, beginning with a Thursday night district clash against Grant County.
“We know what’s coming, and the games that are remembered are next month,” Cade McKee said. “We can win all the games we want in the regular season, but if we’re not ready to go in November, it don’t really matter.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.