Rising force

Pilot Lukacsko (57) and  an opportunistic Great Crossing defense look to take a quantum leap in the program’s third season.

Enthusiasm is rampant as Great Crossing kicks off the 2021 football schedule, with Warhawk players, coaches and fans anticipating that the third season might be the charm.

A preseason coaching change combined with all the requisite challenges of an upstart program still waiting for the finishing touches on a new facility slowed preparations for the inaugural flight in 2019.

And we all know what happened in 2020, when delays, cancellations and last-minute schedule changes became the norm during the darkest days of COVID-19. It was a challenge for every scholastic sports program, but certainly a heavy-duty hurdle for a football team in its infancy.

With a full summer of workouts and camps in the rear-view mirror and its roster loaded with experience for the first time, GC should have that first-time feeling of going into most games as a clear favorite in year three.

That journey kicks off Friday, August 20 in the Bluegrass Orthopaedics Battle of Elkhorn Creek at Birds Nest Stadium. 

In the nightcap of that bowl-style showcase, Great Crossing will host Western Hills at approximately 8:30 p.m.

The neighboring schools — district rivals in all sports except football — met for the first time on short notice when each time was left with a void on their schedule about 24 hours prior to game time last season. Great Crossing took advantage of multiple defensive touchdowns to hammer out a 42-7 victory. It was the second installment in what became a school-record three-game winning streak.

In its initial stand-alone home contest of the season, GC welcomes North Oldham to the best on Friday, Aug. 27. The Class 4A Mustangs won two games last season, one by forfeit, but their schedule included powerhouses Franklin County and Louisville Central.

GC’s initial road game of the season is a Friday, Sept, 3 visit to Henry Clay. The two teams made overtures to play one another in 2020 before COVID cancellations and injury concerns on the Blue Devils’ roster ultimately turning the game into a no-go.

After a winless 2019 season, Henry Clay rebounded with a pair of wins over Lexington rival Lafayette last fall. The Devils represent the only Class 6A opponent on the Warhawks’ slate.

Great Crossing returns home and renews acquaintances with East Jessamine on Friday, Sept. 10. Last season’s game was called off, so the Warhawks will get their first chance to avenge a 43-7 loss from 2019.

The Jaguars enjoyed a breakthrough season with nine wins in ’19 but dipped to 1-6 in the encore. They did not participate in the Class 5A playoffs.

Short road trips are the rule for the Warhawks. That trend continues Friday, Sept. 17 with a short jaunt US-460 to face Bourbon County.

The Colonels are another 4A foe coming off a 1-6 campaign in 2020, with the lone victory over Anderson County. Bourbon County also had a one-point loss to Knox Central and fell to Taylor County by a two-point margin.

GC’s only previous meeting with Bourbon County was a 2019 preseason matchup.

Bye week comes at a beneficial time for the Warhawks, who will have the week of Sept. 20-24 open to prepare for the third-annual Battle of the Birds against Scott County on Friday, Oct. 1. It will be the Warhawks’ district opener for the third time in as many seasons.

For the first time, GC will have a chance to get some wins and confidence under its belt before taking on SC. Then the burning question will be how much the Warhawks have closed the gap from 72-7 and 49-18 losses the past two years. Each team earned a win in the sub-varsity series last season,

Great Crossing, which finished third in its five-team Class 5A district a year ago, gets the first chance to back up one of those wins when it hosts Montgomery County on Friday. Oct. 8. The Warhawks gave Ricky Bowling his initial victory as head coach in convincing fashion, 44-8, last fall.

Another 5A title contender looms Friday, Sept. 15, when GC goes to Frederick Douglass. Last year’s regular-season game was scratched due to COVID. The Broncos overcame a 200-yard, three-touchdown night by Kalib Perry and won big, 62-21, in the opening round of the playoffs.

On Friday, Oct. 22, Great Crossing returns to the scene of its breakthrough win two years ago when it travels north to Grant County. The Warhawks repeated that 28-20 triumph with a 50-24 home rout last season.

GC’s regular season concludes with a Friday, Oct. 29 home game against Collins. The Titans should pose a challenge after tripling their win total from two to six even in last autumn’s shortened season.

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

GREAT CROSSING FOOTBALL

At Birds Nest Stadium unless noted

Aug. 20  - vs. Western Hills, 8:30 p.m.

Aug. 27  - vs. North Oldham, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 3  - at Henry Clay, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 10  - vs. East Jessamine, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 17  - at Bourbon County, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 24  - Bye

Oct. 1  - vs. Scott County, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 8  - vs. Montgomery Co., 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 15  - at Douglass., 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 22  - at Grant County, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 29  - vs. Collins, 7:30 p.m.

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