On a night that felt more conducive to snowflakes than the previous evening’s unplayable lightning, the flurry of football firsts continued flying over Great Crossing.
Saturday’s 50-24 thrashing of Great County gave the Warhawks a school-record single-game point total as well as a win at Birds’ Nest Stadium, a .500 mark on the season and a winning record in their district – all unprecedented, all in one whack.
“Obviously we're still in the building process, and our kids are starting to get a taste of winning,” GC coach Ricky Bowling said. “That is building our morale, and that's what we focused on all week is how do we handle success, and how do we keep our attitudes right and come into practice and work harder than anybody else? We're doing that, and we've got to continue that and keep it up.”
Jake Broughton threw three touchdowns to Jacob Coulter and rushed for another score on his way to Oser Paint and Flooring offensive player of the game honors.
Coulter’s catches covered 22, 21 and 40 yards. The middle installment came with one second remaining in the first half and gave GC (3-3) a 27-18 advantage.
“We were trying to score, get the ball to start the half and score again. That was our agenda,” Broughton said.
Kalib Perry also had first-half TD runs of 34 and 29 yards, countering a pair by Grant County workhorse Logan Sutherland.
Sutherland's staggering final totals were 40 carries for 219 yards, although all but 47 of those came in the first half.
“We started off a little slow on defense, but our offense kept clicking,” Bowling said. “We were able to execute late in the first half. We came out the second half, and the defense made some adjustments. I love our kids.”
Great Crossing scored 37 unanswered points after falling behind for the final time on Sutherland’s 48-yard scamper with 3:25 remaining in the second quarter.
Austin Welch booted a 35-yard field goal to get the second half off on the right foot. Broughton’s 16-yard scoring sprint after a beautiful fake and a 2-yard plunge by Tyris Cobbins put it out of reach.
“It was going to be a very physical game. We knew that from the start. We had to keep powering through it once they were up, and we just had to keep fighting,” said Oryend Fisher, who was named Steve Schureman/Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance defensive player of the game. “We just knew we had to get locked in even harder, and that's just time for a comeback.”
Another Broughton bomb to Coulter etched the exclamation point with four minutes left in the game. Broughton (8-for-14, 163 yards passing, nine carries for 50 rushing yards) said the throw wasn't an attempt to rub it in.
“Funny story about that is I looked at the wrong play on the card,” the senior signal-caller said. “We called a run. We were just trying to run the clock out, maybe get a score but keep the ball in our hands.”
Great Crossing’s defense didn’t add to its total of five scores in the past three games, but it served up plenty of zeroes after Grant County’s early success.
Brandon Smith fell on a fumble in the end zone for a touchback that kept GC in front 13-12 early in the second quarter.
“We know we've forced a lot of turnovers the last two of three weeks, and we understand that's not always going to happen,” Bowling said. “But again, we were still flying to the football and able to get stops, and that tells me that our players are maturing in a big way, bending but not breaking, and we were able to do that pretty well tonight.”
Unconventional clock management from the Braves, who never punt and only onside kick, led to a turnover on downs that gave the Warhawks their crack at the end zone to cap the half. GC threw Sutherland for a six-yard loss after a delay of game penalty turned fourth-and-2 into a more daunting challenge for the Braves.
Coulter fought off pass interference in the end zone and won a jump ball in the back left corner to complete that stunning swing of the pendulum.
Grant County (2-3, 1-3) came up empty in the second half until Aldo Olivas’ 2-yard TD run on the final play.
Olivas also scored on a blocked punt recovery, returning a swat by Matthew Martin 10 yards to give the Braves a 6-0 lead to start the game.
The Warhawks answered almost immediately when Perry took a toss from Broughton, won the foot race to the corner along the Braves' sideline, and turned on the jets.
“We're very versatile. I can run or throw the ball. We can switch to Kalib, and he can run the ball,” Broughton said. “We've got a load of backs that we can hand it to. We've got a platoon of younger guys that we trust.”
Great Crossing ended the opening quarter with a 20-yard run and 24-yard catch by Perry on consecutive plays, setting up Coulter's catch-and-run on a curl-and-go route six seconds into the second period.
“Jake Broughton is a great quarterback. He's a smart kid, very intelligent, and he was on. He was locked in tonight,” Bowling said. “Our receivers do a great job. When the ball's thrown to them, they're going to go get it, and if it's a run play, we're blocking our tails off. We had a few times that we broke some long runs, and receivers were blocking downfield.”
After tucking an 8-yard journey to the end zone between Great Crossing's first two scores, Sutherland set sail for the long TD run down his own sideline to put the Braves back on top.
When Fisher made a tackle for loss on the ensuing two-point conversion try, it was hard to imagine at the time that it would be Grant County's last chance to score meaningful points.
The Warhawks were gifted another short field when the Braves received a 15-yard penalty for their second sideline encroachment warning on Sutherland's score, then kicked a squibber straight into the hands of Pilot Lukacsko.
Perry, who was last season's starting QB, ran twice out of the wildcat formation, scoring on a 29-yarder to reclaim the lead with 2:23 to go.
“When you have a kid like Kalib Perry, you've got to get the ball in his hands. We put that little package in this week just to get him some more touches and let him do his thing,” Bowling said. “Kalib Perry's a great athlete, and he can make those things happen, but again, it just goes to our offensive line. They're doing an outstanding job, and again (receivers) blocking on the perimeter.”
Fisher was in the center of a sea of blue shirts and silver helmets around Sutherland and Braves’ QB Conner Knipp at every turn.
Perry, Lukacsko, Cayden Allen, Tre Combs, Chase Little, Mason Wiley, Casey Fain and Drake Byrd each spent significant time in the center of that Warhawks’ pile.
“It felt good. I know we've got one of the best defensive coordinators (Simon Vanderpool) in the state, so I knew everything was going to work out according to plan,” Fisher said. “Every tackle is about five jerseys on the ball. It's all about team effort.”
In addition to the 24-hour weather delay, Great Crossing also overcame a more frightful experience when four players were involved in an auto accident on the way home from Friday’s washout. Two were treated at the hospital for minor injuries and released. The other two were unhurt.
“We battled adversity. We had things going on last night, canceled the game,” Bowling said. “Our kids, their attitude right now is we’re focused. We’re trusting the process. We're continuing to get after it in practice, and I love where we're at.”
Great Crossing clinched no worse than a No. 3 seed in the district playoffs and has winnable home games with Henry Clay and East Jessamine prior to that.
“It builds our confidence, but we know no other team expects this right now, so we're just earning respect is all it is,” Fisher said of the streak.
“We're taking advantage of the opportunities the defense is giving us. The past three weeks they've been giving us a chance every single series,” Broughton added. “We moved the ball. We were rolling. (Grant) couldn't stop us. Every time you win every time you do something good on the field, whether it be in practice or a game, that gives you so much momentum leading into that next play, leading into the next week.”