Happy huddle

Jim McKee and Scott County have enjoyed their share of triumphant post-game huddles over the past 23 seasons, but last Friday’s will go down as one of the most satisfying after the Cardinals’ 72-7 rout of their new city rival, the Great Crossing Warhawks.

To be acquainted with Scott County football coach Jim McKee's straightforward, old-school style is to assume he's probably happy to move away from the carnival, rock concert or political rally atmosphere of Week 1 against Great Crossing and tackle the rest of the Cardinals' schedule.

Don't jump to that conclusion. After 23 years, 200-plus wins and having three boys grow up in both his home and his grid program, McKee has learned to stop and enjoy the scenery some.

“I don't ever wish a game away. I try to enjoy every one of 'em,” McKee said. “When I first started coaching, we would win, but we would miss a pass or an extra point or whatever, and I would spend my whole night ripping somebody. Ripping myself, ripping the kids. I don't do that anymore.”

SC hung a 72-7 loss upon its upstart rival in the unveiling of a rivalry before an estimated 7,000 bipartisan backers at the Bird Cage on Friday night.

By any measure, it was business as usual from the Cardinals. They've done the same thing to Highlands, Henry Clay, George Rogers Clark and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Seven times now in the past eight seasons, Scott County has scored 70 or more against an overmatched foe.

There have been one-sided defeats, though. State final losses to St. Xavier in 2004 and Trinity in 2011 come to mind, and they've taught McKee to value the highs and lows of the journey.

“When we went to the finals in 2004, we got beat 49-9,” McKee recalled. “I had a meeting before we left the field with our staff. They all had to turn an index card in to me when we got back about things we had to do better.

“In 2011, we got running clocked by Trinity, and after the game I took a picture with my three sons.”

His voice trailed off with emotion. “My perspective's a little different at age 50 than it was at age 30. I didn't want to wish the game away. I wanted the kids to enjoy every bit of it.”

His senior-dominated team did precisely that, with the emotions perhaps spilling over into what will become teachable moments at practice this week, despite the one-sided score.

There were a few dropped or overthrown passes and a smattering of missed assignments, as you might expect in week one.

Also, too many penalties, a few of them of the unsportsmanlike conduct variety. Scott County certainly approached the game with a more defiant tone than usual, a response to what they perceived as disrespect from the new program over the winter, spring and summer.

“The whole off-season they were talking smack,” said senior fullback Philip Garner, who rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half. “They were telling us they were going to kill us. The disrespect was crazy the whole off-season, and so we were very motivated to play this game.”

SC quarterback Cade McKee echoed his teammate's thoughts but not his father's, indicating that he's glad the game is over and that the less personal part of the schedule can commence.

“It is a big relief, just because of how much talk was around the game that didn't need to be, that kind of distracted us,” the younger McKee said. “It's good to get it over so now we can go into next week with an opponent that isn't going to put all that stuff on social media.”

Scott County settles into a stretch of the schedule with Class 6A opponents, against which the Cardinals should still be prohibitive favorites.

This week's trip is to Lafayette, a smack-talking rivalry in its own right three or four years ago, but one that has cooled significantly. The Cards return home to face DuPont Manual before another visit to Lexington and Bryan Station.

“One-and-oh, and away we go. That was our motto,” Jim McKee said. “Obviously we've got some things to clean up. We missed some passes in the first half. We missed some extra points. You can't win championships missing extra points and missing wide-open receivers, so we'll clean all that up.”

SC exhibited its depth on both sides of the ball.

Garner's seven carries were the most of any Cardinal back. Bronson Brown and Jeremy Hamilton combined for three other touchdowns, while Montago Jones and Campton Martin showed they'll be tough to tackle, as well.

Four total tackles were the maximum for SC's ravenous defense, which had two or three bodies swarming to the ball every time GC gave the ball to a back out of its spread formation.

The Cardinals' starting offense was on the field for nine possessions and finished each one with hugs and high-fives in the end zone.

“That's good, but there's still some things we have to clean up,” Cade McKee said. “We're going to get back in (to watch the film), and we're not going to slow down at all.”

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

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