You'll get nothing and like it

Great Crossing shut down three consecutive fourth-down gambles by Grant County to start Friday night's game, scored a touchdown after each one and cruised to a 48-14 win.

DRY RIDGE – What a difference two years make.

Last time Great Crossing football wandered into Grant County, it walked away with a watershed win, a first in program history that ended with a phalanx of police cars and fire tracks escorting the bus down Main Street and back to campus.

Friday night, the Warhawks visited the Braves with bigger fish to fry next week and beyond. That can be a dangerous situation, but GC was businesslike and attentive to detail in a 48-14 rout.

Seven different players scored touchdowns for Great Crossing (7-2, 2-2), which eliminated Grant County (0-9, 0-4) from playoff contention and solidified its own district semifinal rematch against Scott County on Friday, Nov. 5.

"All in all, it was a great night for our kids,” GC coach Ricky Bowling said. “We played hard. We played well. We stressed all week we had to get better in a lot of areas, and I felt like we did that.”

Great Crossing scored on its first three possessions, then tacked on a defensive touchdown for the third consecutive week to build a 28-0 advantage late in the first half.

The Braves' long-standing, unorthodox strategy of almost never punting led to a four-and-out by the Warhawks' defense to start the game.

GC's ensuing grind-it-out drive covered 39 yards in 11 plays, culminating in Cayden Allen's 1-yard plunge with 5:19 remaining in the first quarter. The extra point was no good.

Grant County picked up its initial first down before getting stopped again on fourth down in its own territory. The Warhawks needed only six plays to span the short field this time, capped by Zach Morris' 2-yard run.

"We started off well both sides of the ball, just played really well early,” Bowling said. “We started the game better and were more physical, and so it's good to see that from a lot of our guys that were challenged this week.”

Another ill-fated try on fourth down left the Braves two yards shy of the stick early in the second quarter, and the Warhawks quickly pounced once again.

Breathing some life into what had been a no-frills start to the evening, Zackarrey Kelley added to his highlight reel of breathtaking touchdown catches in the back of the end zone with an 18-yard grab from Gabe Nichols.

Nichols also rushed for the two-point conversion and a 21-0 lead with 7:56 to go in the half.

"That really got us going and gave us a spark,” Bowling said. “Everybody likes the big play, and we needed a big play. After that I wanted to pound it out and just keep it on the ground and get our hogs rolling.”

Pass-happy Grant County had little choice but to throw on almost every down after Great Crossing's early run of stops and subsequent scores.

The Braves paid the price when Harris picked off Conner Knipp and raced 33 yards to the end zone with 2:33 remaining.

"We dropped a couple more opportunities for interceptions, but Peyton took one to the house there,” Bowling said. “We defended OK. They attacked our cover-three a little bit and hit some spots. They like to chuck it up, and our guys stayed right with them pretty good in the coverage.”

Knipp wound up 14-for-33 and was held to 110 yards passing. He also was the victim of Will Frazier's team-leading 11th sack of the season.

GC did let Knipp off the hook with a penalty and automatic first down in the two-minute drill, leading to his 5-yard keeper to get Grant on the board with four seconds left.

"I was trying to call timeouts, trying to get the ball back before the half and maybe score again,” Bowling said. “We had them stopped third-and-10 and got a penalty. In close games, good games, you can't do that, so we've got to get better in that area.”

After pouncing on a squib kick to start the second half, GC quickly drove from midfield and reclaimed the four-touchdown advantage. Nichols, who was also 10-for-20 through the air for 109 yards, ran it in from four yards out.

Isaiah Johnson padded the cushion with an 8-yard TD rush later in the third period. Tyris Cobbins answered Knipp's second TD run to account for the final margin.

"We wanted to stress the run game tonight,” Bowling said. “We ran the ball well. We had four or five guys carry tonight and did a really good job.”

Johnson (five carries, 55 yards), Cobbins (seven for 49), Allen (five for 46) and Morris (nine for 40) shared the wealth.

Kelley caught five passes for 57 yards to lead Great Crossing, which out-gained Grant County by a 266-190 margin.

The Braves hadn't played for nearly a month, forfeiting district games to Frederick Douglass and Scott County due to COVID-19 protocols ahead of a bye week.

"We had a great opportunity to get more guys more playing time, and that's only going to help us get better as we move towards postseason,” Bowling said.

Great Crossing was less concerned with Grant County's unimposing record than righting its own ship after a 38-7 loss at Douglass, one in which it amassed only three first downs.

"It's all about us right now. What can we do to make sure we're getting better each day?” Bowling said. “And keeping the focus on us, nobody else. Not looking ahead for anything just yet. We've got to get better every single day.”

Next week's clash with Collins at Birds' Nest Stadium is a battle of 7-2 Class 5A clubs.

On one hand, it shapes up as great playoff preparation. On the flip side, it means next to nothing in the big picture, with the following week's familiar opponent already ensured,

"I'm kind of questioning my scheduling at this point,” Bowling said, pointing out the difference between Collins' read-option game and Scott County's Wing-T attack. “We've already kind of started planning. We learned from our mistakes the first time we played Scott County. We've got idea schematically what we want to do.

"At this point next week we want to stay healthy. Obviously we want to win (next Friday's) game, but we want to make sure we're not doing anything out of the ordinary."

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