The game didn’t quite live up to the year (OK, years) of hype, or the mass of humanity that crammed into every nook and cranny of the shiny, new “Bird Cage” to watch it Friday night.
Scott County looked the part of Class 5A state title contender, while Great Crossing gamely took its licks but got an up-close look at how high the bar is set for city football in a 72-7 rout.
Philip Garner scored on four of his seven carries and amassed 220 yards, all in the first half.
“Looking around and seeing this crazy environment, everybody going crazy, it was an unbelievable atmosphere and experience being able to play this game,” Garner said.
The estimated crowd of more than 5,000 shattered the previous district record of 4,159, set when SC beat Boone County in the 2004 state semifinals.
“To be honest with you, I think that’s a tribute to our program,” SC coach Jim McKee said. “It’s a tribute to what we’ve created here. If we’d been 2-8 the last five years, I don’t think there would have been 5,000 people here tonight.”
Bronson Brown added 164 all-purpose yards, 128 of them on the ground, and an interception to spark the defense.
Running time prevailed with just over six minutes remaining in the second quarter. SC accomplished that with two quick scores after GC put up its only touchdown, a 74-yard strike from Kalib Perry to Bryce Hearn.
“It’s the beginning of a new era,” Great Crossing coach Paul Rains said. “We wish we had a better showing, but when you’re as young as we are, putting so many freshmen and sophomores on the field, I’m proud of the effort our boys gave. We’re going to get a lot better.”
Garner’s touchdown total matched his jersey number. It would have equaled the fingers on his hot hand had Great Crossing not tracked him down at the 1 after a 58-yard gain midway through the first quarter.
“I was gassed, and I let up,” he said with a shrug.
Jeremy Hamilton finished that work, one of his two end zone visits of the half. Brown and Cade McKee also moved the numbers and set off the new, celebratory, red LED stadium strobe lights.
Brown put SC in business after GC won the toss and elected to defer its option to the second half. The senior halfback, who rushed for just shy of 1,500 yards and 21 TD last season, had his index finger pointed heavenward in celebration as he crossed midfield.
He called his shot correctly: The Warhawks never caught Brown on his way to a 63-yard score, 52 seconds into the game.
Scott County didn’t miss a chance to accentuate its accomplishments as the night wore on.
“Honestly it was just the whole talk from the time they knew they were going to have a team,” Cade McKee, SC’s senior quarterback, said. “That (ticked) me off, because I knew what we had coming back, and I knew what we were capable of. They didn’t really have any reason to talk, but they did, and that’s life, and we proved it tonight.”
Great Crossing enjoyed exceptional field position after covering a surprise onside kick, but the short field was short-lived. Cheney Harris hit Perry on a backside blitz as the sophomore threw, and Brown picked off the wayward ball.
SC's ensuing drive ended with Garner's initial score, a 42-yard salvo. Hearn reeled him in on that run, too, but after a brief conference the officials ruled it a touchdown and a 13-0 Cardinals’ lead with 9:11 left.
Most of GC's first-half running plays that weren't keepers by Perry went for negative yards thanks to the swarming presence of Tasian Stakelin, Rylan Reed, Spencer Wood, Campton Martin, Brown and Harris.
Hamilton's TD rushes of 1 and 9 yards capped the first quarter. Brown's spinning 25-yard surge set up the encore.
Garner gobbled up 46 yards to make it 33-0 with 10:50 remaining in the second.
“This is one of those games that no matter what the score, even though it was a blowout, I’ll never forget,” Garner said.
Great Crossing penned the answers to a trivia question or two on its next possession. Perry rolled to his right, found daylight and fired a frozen rope to a wide-open Hearn for a TD.
It was a trick play formation known as the polecat, one that caught SC flat-footed or expecting a quick kick.
“I’ve used it all the way back to when I coached at Hazard,” Rains said. “We used the run-and-shoot a little bit. I won a regional championship at LCA, and in the final minutes of the game we took the length of the field running it. So it’s worked for me, and what the heck, you’ve got a big crowd here, let’s show them something different.”
Subtracting that play, GC had only 17 net yards all night. SC rolled up 541.
Hamilton's would-be third score of the night was called back due to a hold far behind the play, but the Cardinals calmly kept chalking up big chunks.
Brown crossed midfield and stutter stepped for 26 more yards. Garner added 20 before McKee capped the series with a 6-yard keeper, hollering “Six!” as he knocked former teammate Trent Allen across the goal line.
McKee's 36-yard strike down the middle to Brown set up Garner's 11-yard run for the hat trick and the mercy clock.
“That’s what I like so much about this team,” Jim McKee said. “We have hardly any knuckleheads. We have guys like Garner with a 29 ACT score. We have guys like Cade, who’s going to play college baseball but wouldn’t even think about giving up football. We’ve got guys like Bronson who worked hard all winter so he could play both ways. I could go on and on.”
Perry picked up a first down on Great Crossing's next opportunity, but a stop and a punt left SC with ample time to inflict more damage.
Garner punctuated the half appropriately with a 36-yard scoring scamper.
“I’ve got to give all the credit to my line, my other backs for blocking for me, and the coaches who got them ready all week,” Garner said. “Running behind those gaping holes, it’s not that difficult.”
Scott County’s second-half scoring included a terrific, 28-yard second-effort from Micah McClave after a throw by McKee; Harris’ tackle in the end zone for a safety; Zane Patton’s 2-yard QB keeper; and a 28-yard field goal by Jacob Bange.
Perry made eight tackles and Mason Wiley seven to top the GC defense. Perry also led the Warhawks’ rushing attack with six carries for 30 yards.