Two-way standout

Cayden Allen (23) receives congratulations from Great Crossing teammates after his first-quarter touchdown Friday night in a 28-7 win at Bourbon County.

PARIS - Even delaying the inevitable Friday night didn't stymie the lauded defense of the upstart - and still unbeaten - Great Crossing Warhawks.

Sidelined for the first 15 minutes of the game because of two successful Great Crossing offensive possessions and a kickoff return touchdown by host Bourbon County, the Warhawks' defense delivered seven sacks and an interception in the final 33 minutes in a 28-7 win over the Colonels at Adena Springs Field.

"Our defense is No. 2 in the state in 5A, and we tried to come out and set the intensity," said Great Crossing junior defensive end Oryend Fisher, who was in on two sacks. "But we didn't get to get on defense first. We came out on offense first, so we got on them as soon as we could. The second quarter we finally got on the field and we still brought the intensity."

Great Crossing (5-0) took the opening kickoff from Bourbon County (2-1 overall, not counting a COVID forfeit) and put together a lengthy (7:33) 13-play, 62-yard scoring drive, culminating in a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Cayden Allen and the first of four successful extra points on the night by Jesse Fair.

"That was the first time we've really been able to sustain a drive like that, so it was really nice to open up the game and sustain that," said Great Crossing coach Ricky Bowling, whose offense finished with 283 yards on 60 plays. "And then their special teams came through, and our defense had to wait. And it kind of affected us. We were playing a little soft at first."

Great Crossing's initial lead was quite short-lived, as just 17 seconds later, Bourbon County's Jaden Commodore broke four tackles and raced down the Colonels' sideline for the 83-yard kickoff return.

So no chance to shine on defense and back to work for the offense.

Both of the Warhawks' first two possessions were at least seven minutes long, went at least 60 yards and took at least 13 plays, with the latter featuring a 4-yard touchdown run by Kalib Perry.

"When we (went) back on offense, our coach (defensive coordinator Simon Vanderpool) ran by us and goes, 'You all better be ready, because I can't stand the offense getting all the glory.' And we just started laughing," said Perry, a Tennessee commit who had 65 yards on four receptions and was in on three tackles.

Without running an offensive snap until the second quarter, Bourbon County had initial success offensively against the Warhawk defense.

Dual-threat quarterback Clay Estes had two runs for first downs to get the Colonels into the red zone before Great Crossing defensive back Drake Byrd snuffed out the drive with a diving interception in the shadows of the end zone.

"That was a crucial moment right there," Perry said. "That was a bow in our backs, because they did come out and show something new that we hadn't watched on film. But we had to adjust to it and make quick adjustments. We bowed our back and kept playing our game. Luckily we got that pick and it set us right. It was definitely a game-changer there for sure."

Great Crossing had more big plays in store late in the second quarter.

Senior wide receiver Mason Wiley had a end zone jump-ball touchdown reception from junior quarterback Gabe Nichols before the Great Crossing defense ended the first half with back-to-back sacks from senior lineman Brandon Smith and senior linebacker Will Frazier.

The Warhawks grounded out 134 yards on 37 rushes, and Bowling was pleased with those numbers.

"We challenged our offensive line and our running backs this week to really be able to sustain and run the ball," said Bowling, whose offense got a touchdown run from Nichols in the final three minutes to help ice the game away. "Tonight, they're not an easy team to run the ball against. They were crowding the box and bringing pressure from all angles and we were still able to sustain the run game and get tough, tough yards."

The yards were tough to come by for Bourbon County. The initial drive that Byrd ended with his pick went for eight plays and 61 yards. But the Colonels' final 36 plays amassed just 46 yards.

"I think we did good," said Fisher, who has been offered by Kentucky, Louisville, EKU and three other D-1 schools. "We still got all our hats to the ball as well as we possibly could. We knew we couldn't back down."

After winning four combined games in their first two seasons, the Warhawks now have a five-game winning streak heading into their bye week. Next up is Scott County on Oct. 1.

Fisher said the work is far from done, though.

"Respect wise, we still haven't got the respect we deserve yet. We're still fighting for our respect," Fisher said. "People are gonna hear our name now and know Great Crossing is something to be aware of."

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