The best news for Great Crossing High School football is that the circus surrounding its first-ever football game is over.
All the pageantry, all the people, all the flashing lights are out of the way, and so is the mighty monolith of an opponent from across town. The Warhawks took their 72-7 medicine from Scott County, one of at least two Class 5A state championship contenders on their initial schedule.
It wasn't a realistic barometer of the progress GC made since its open workouts in the spring, and the ultimate realist, veteran head coach Paul Rains, knew it.
“Half our starters were playing freshman ball last year or not playing at all, didn't even play football. The entire offensive line, none of them took a varsity snap last year,” Rains said. “The average John Doe up in the stands doesn't realize that. Then you walk out here in front of umpteen thousand people, and you're playing against Scott County, one of the richest traditions and one of the strongest programs this year in the state of Kentucky? I mean, what do you expect?”
Then again, life only gets incrementally easier.
Most observers who cast a ballot for the Cardinals as either 5A's preseason No. 1 or No. 2 put Frederick Douglass in the other spot. That district game down the road will be no picnic.
Next week's opponent at home North Bullitt, looked like one of the softer touches on the schedule, but the Eagles roll into another bird battle undefeated after a 40-14 win over North Oldham.
“We've got an unbelievably tough schedule. That's the thing people have to understand, too. You look at every single game, other than maybe one or two, and we're playing one of the top teams,” Rains said. “So we've got a tough row ahead of us, but get this one behind us and learn from it. There ain't gonna be any more electric environment than this, so they won't be big-eyed because of the crowd and the bands or anything anymore.”
While not wishing to put any additional pressure on the Warhawks, Rains and his staff counseled the team to soak up that atmosphere prior to kickoff.
“It's special for the county. The crowd and everything, the support that you got for the game of football, was evident,” Rains said. “That''s what we told them before the game. You'll remember this ballgame and running out here on the field for the rest of your life. You can say you played in the first game ever. As they go on, the game will have gotten closer and better.”
Rains punctuated those words with a hearty laugh, knowing that the bottom-line details of the drubbing were anything but glamorous.
Great Crossing did give itself an incredible fish story for future generations, however, with the first touchdown in school history.
With his team trailing 33-0 and struggling to gain positive yardage with any conventional running or passing plays, Rains pulled the “polecat” from the back pages of the playbook.
It's a legal but almost never-seen formation in which most of the offense except the quarterback and center tiptoe the line of scrimmage on one, far side of the field.
Most of the Scott County defense followed that ruse, uncertain what was brewing, That allowed quarterback Kalib Perry to collect the quick snap, roll to his right away from the Cardinals playing catch-up, and find a wide-open Bryce Hearn behind the secondary for a 74-yard touchdown.
“I was pretty excited about that. Me and Coach Monty (McIntyre, SC defensive coordinator) were talking about that just now. He was kind of kidding me when I took the job earlier this spring about me running 'Polecat’ on him,” Rains said. “I've been known to do that in my past. It worked, and it was exciting. It was good for the fans and everything to get to see us break one.
“We got that first touchdown out of the way, anyway. Good to put one on the board. I'm sure they didn't like it. I'm sure they would have liked double zeroes up there, but that's OK. You've got to rattle the cage every now and then.”
While a few of the Warhawks' faithful took to social media over the weekend and decried what they considered running up the score, Rains registered no such accusations.
Scott County's starting offense and defense each played only one series in the second half, scoring a touchdown and a safety. The Cards' JV offense drove conservatively to one touchdown, and the sophomores were responsible for a field goal.
Those were physically the fairest minutes, Rains noted.
“We're playing a lot of guys that should be playing JV and freshman ball in there tonight,” he said. “We said keep your heads up. We're going to watch film. We're going to learn. We played one of the best teams in the state of Kentucky. That's a tough way to open it up, but it is what it is, and we'll get better.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.