On pace for 200-plus

Scott County fullback Montago Jones fights for extra yards against Great Crossing in last season’s football game between the county rivals. The two programs reported a combined 140 players from sophomores to seniors as practice opened last week.

High school football is an embattled sport in many parts of the country, and even in some rural corners of Kentucky.

The sport’s risks have been touted in headlines and Hollywood movies ahead of its many benefits and crucial life lessons. Also, changing levels of commitment and the hunger for instant gratification have cut into the roster of prospective players.

Not so in this community. To the surprise of nobody who has been paying attention in tradition-rich Georgetown, our two high schools still report enthusiasm at a fever pitch as the work begins toward the 2021 season.

A total of 140 athletes in the senior, junior and sophomore classes alone reported for duty last week for the initial preseason practices at Scott County and Great Crossing.

Those were the numbers reported by head coaches Jim McKee of SC and Ricky Bowling of GC on their social media platforms, and that doesn’t include a staggering number of freshmen already signed up to play for the Warhawks.

McKee, entering his 30th year overall in the high school coaching ranks and 26th as shepherd of the Cardinals’ program, announced turnout of 22 seniors, 19 juniors and 25 sophomores for a total of 66 varsity and junior varsity-aged players.

That number represents 15.7 percent of the school’s male population of 420 students in those three grades, according to McKee.

The sophomore total, McKee reported, is an impressive 89 percent of the personnel retained from last year’s freshman roster. That is an important barometer for the health of any program, as it tends to be the age at which some players see the writing on the wall and give up the game.

Scott County will not have an official read on its ninth-grade numbers until later this month, as its freshmen aren’t due to report to camp until next Monday, July 26. In accordance with McKee’s longtime tradition, the Cardinals’ first two weeks of practice are primarily reserved for a program called Tennessee Tracks. It’s a series of small-group workouts, grouped by class, with the goal of conditioning and slowly ramping up toward full-contact drills and scrimmages in early August.

At Great Crossing, the Warhawks have hit the turf running, with participation levels that continue their impressive upward spike from the program’s infancy.

Bowling announced that 22 seniors, 23 juniors and 29 sophomores, or a combined 74 veteran players, were in camp last week.

But the eyebrow-raising number was a delegation of 45 freshmen expected to make their debut with the Warhawks this summer and fall.

To put the numbers in perspective and proportion, Great Crossing had 1,439 students, including 727 males, in the 2019-20 audited numbers posted on the KHSAA website. 

Scott County housed 1,255 students, with 613 boys enrolled in grades 9-12. That doesn’t reflect the data from the highly complicated, COVID-impacted year of 2020-21,

Both schools will compete in Class 5A again this season, although it is anticipated that Great Crossing will move up to 6A when the KHSAA conducts its next reclassification, presumably prior to the 2022-23 school year.

The third annual Battle of the Birds between the two varsity teams is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 1 at Birds Nest Stadium. Scott County won the first two contests in convincing fashion, 72-7 in 2019 and 49-18 in 2020. Together, they will kick off the season by hosting the Bluegrass Orthopaedics Battle of Elkhorn Creek on Friday, Aug, 20. Scott County will host Franklin County at 6 p.m,, immediately followed by Great Crossing against Western Hills.

SC is coming off an undefeated 6-0 regular season, while GC tripled its win total from one to three in year two.

No fewer than three NCAA Division I prospects will suit up in the county this fall. 

Two-way standout and three-sport star Kalib Perry of Great Crossing holds a double-digit number of major college offers, including his most recent one from the University of Kentucky.

Perry’s junior teammate, defensive end Oryend Fisher, holds offers from the University of Louisville and Eastern Kentucky. And Jeremy Hamilton of Scott County, another KHSAA “Triple Threat” athlete who has starred as a running back and defensive back on the gridiron, has received overtures from the University of Cincinnati and EKU.

Hamilton is part of a senior-dominated backfield that includes Montago Jones, Campton Martin and Jaxon Saylor, Martin, who led the Cardinals in both touchdowns and pass interceptions last season, is expected to utilize the supplemental senior year that was made available to KHSAA athletes in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The top nine tacklers on the Warhawks’ defense, led by Perry, are due back this season. Perry was also the top rusher and touchdown-maker for a year ago. 

Five different Warhawks, including returnees Fisher, Pilot Lukacsko and Peyton Harris, scored a defensive touchdown last season. Leading receiver Jacob Coulter also returns to the fray for GC.

And the best news of all? Today (Tuesday) represents the one-month mark — 31 days — until opening night.

Kal Oakes can be reached via email at sports@news-graphic.com.

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