LEXINGTON – Wise football minds will claim that you are what the scoreboard and your record say you are.
Still, the 35 under Frederick Douglass’ name on the scoreboard Friday night probably wasn’t a fair assessment of how splendidly Scott County’s defense played.
On the other side, the dark void of extinguished LED lights – nobody ever bothered to put up a zero – told the tale to a ‘T’ about the Cardinals’ attack.
Douglass (6-0) celebrated the second shutout in its current four-game winning streak over Scott County (2-3). No other school has served up even one zero against the Cards since 2001.
SC was held to a paltry 93 yards, 40 of it against Douglass’ reserves in the final two minutes.
“We couldn’t move the ball. We just couldn’t move it, and that’s on me. I’m the head coach, and I put together the offensive game plan,” SC coach Jim McKee said. “We’ve gotten better every single week on defense, and we got better every week offensively obviously until tonight.”
Quicker than a holiday weekend, accustomed to putting away opponents with big-play aerial theatrics, Douglass this time delivered death by an accumulation of paper cuts.
Davaun Hart rushed for touchdowns of 7, 1 and 3 yards. Samuel Cornett’s only scoring strike was a wide-open 8-yarder to Thomas Howard with 4:30 remaining.
Two safeties and a 38-yard field goal by Cooper Ranvier rounded out a workmanlike win for the Broncos, the consensus midseason No. 1 in Class 5A.
“They’re fast. They’re athletic. They’re disciplined. They did just a great job tonight,” Douglass coach Nathan McPeek said of his defense. “Offensively we were a little stagnant at times, so we’ve got to get to better.”
Two fumble recoveries by Luke Valencia breathed life into SC’s first-half upset hopes.
Jeremy Hamilton brilliantly blanketed blue-chip receiver Dane Key, breaking up a pair of would-be touchdowns in the end zone. The first sealed a goal-line stand for the Cards after Key made a sensational one-handed grab to set up first-and-goal on the 1.
It was scoreless at the end of the first quarter and only 12-0 at the half.
Aided by a pair of pass interference penalties, SC was inches away from a game-changing touchdown on the final play before intermission.
Taylor Luttrull made the grab just beyond the left edge of the end zone. Closely covered by Ty Bryant and Ahmar Clark, Luttrull came down with both feet clearly out of bounds.
“Should have punched it in, and sure it would have been different if it were 12-7 and we got the second-half kickoff,” McKee said. “There’s no ifs, ands, buts. They beat us fair and square. We could not move the ball.”
Douglass broke the ice in the opening minute of the second period.
After SC declined a penalty to take the result of a tackle for loss and make it fourth-and-3 from the 12, Hart (19 carries, 154 yards) picked up five on a toss play to move the sticks.
The Broncos snapped it quickly after the down marker was reset, and Hart’s second-effort spun him across the goal line.
Cornett converted third-and-long on a keeper to set up Ranvier’s 38-yard boot with 7:53 remaining in the half.
“We have to get on the film and move forward,” McPeek said. “At the end of the day it’s only one game in the middle of the season. We have a lot of work to do.”
Campton Martin’s kick return and Hamilton’s run for the initial Scott County first down of the evening put the Cards in Broncos’ territory, but Japhia Kennedy stopped Montago Jones on fourth-and-1 at the 37.
A wild turn of events set up the first of Douglass’ twin safeties.
Hamilton chased down Hart at the end of a 44-yard ramble and punched the ball free to save a touchdown. Valencia covered it at the 5.
Davis Joyner sacked freshman quarterback Andrew Hickey in the end zone on the next play.
Immediately after TJ Horton’s electrifying return of the free kick fell victim to a penalty – Douglass was flagged 10 times for 136 yards on the night – Valencia stripped the ball from Ty Bryant and ran it back to the Douglass 28.
Another fourth-and-short bid went awry when Caden Johnson took down Hamilton a foot shy of the stick at the 18.
“The defense gave us a chance in the first half to stay in the ball game, and we were unable to take advantage if it," McKee said. "We turned ‘em over and got stopped on fourth down by a couple inches.”
Douglass couldn’t deliver the knockout punch after its defense summoned yet another three-and-out to start the second half.
An apparent touchdown run out of the wildcat formation by Cameron Dunn didn’t stand after a personal foul penalty. The Broncos settled for another Ranvier field goal try, and it veered wide left.
Joyner sacked Hickey again on SC’s next series, leading to a punt and a methodical, short scoring drive by Douglass.
Johnson’s recovery of a Hamilton fumble after a catch stymied another march at midfield on the next-to-last play of the third quarter.
Then the cumulative effect set in. Howard’s catch capped an eight-play, 66-yard march.
A high snap on a punt produced the second safety, and Horton raced 67 yards on the free kick to set up Hart’s walk-in score.
“We can’t worry about using them for a barometer. We’re competing against ourselves,” McKee said. “I think our team right now would beat our team that played Franklin County (43-14 loss in the opening game) to death. I think we’ve gotten progressively better each week.”
SC tackles another undefeated opponent – and another rival – next week. The Battle of the Birds with Great Crossing is Friday night.