Scott County football may have dipped to Class 5A after advancing to the 6A state final in 2018, but coach Jim McKee hasn’t allowed the Cardinals to consider their lofty standards any differently.
The 25th-year boss has backed up those words by ensuring that the Cardinals’ schedule remains a regional who’s-who as workouts for the 2021 campaign kickoff this week.
There will be no glorified bye weeks on the non-district slate for SC. Four Class 6A opponents and two state-contending geographic rivals from Class 4A will highlight the Cardinals’ challenging docket.
SC will face former 6A rivals Bryan Station, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Lafayette out of Lexington and Ballard from Louisville to go along two titanic intermediate-sized opponents in Franklin County and Lexington Catholic.
The Cardinals are coming off their first undefeated regular season since the state championship autumn of 2013, albeit an abbreviated, six-game schedule due to the impact of COVID-19.
A challenging road begins Friday, August 20 with the Bluegrass Orthopaedics Battle of Elkhorn Creek at Birds Nest Stadium.
In the opening game of a doubleheader at the bowl-style event, Scott County will take on Franklin County at 6 p.m. It’s the first meeting between the two programs since SC stormed to one-sided wins of 54-7 in 2001 and 62-0 in 2002.
Franklin County’s program has ascended to a much higher level in recent years under the direction of Eddie James, culminating with a trip to the 4A state final last December at Kroger Field.
That game went down to the final play, with Boyle County tipping away a pass to the corner of the end zone in overtime to seal a 31-28 verdict.
Great Crossing and Western Hills will meet in the second half of the Georgetown-Frankfort twin bill that evening
Scott County had better enjoy the home cooking that night: The Cardinals won’t return to the home turf for nearly a month.
On Friday, August 27, SC will make the short trip to Lafayette. Last year’s scheduled meeting was one of the four regular-season casualties due to health and safety conflicts.
The Cards have owned the series in the years since the Generals hit their zenith with the likes of Walker Wood, Landon Young and future NFL star Jedrick Wills on their roster from 2014 through 2016. Still, SC’s winning margin of 28-19 two years ago was closer than expected.
SC will have its annual bye going into the Labor Day weekend before returning to action Friday, Sept. 10 at Bryan Station.
The surprise team in 6A a year ago in coach Phillip Hawkins’ first season with the program, Bryan Station gave Scott County all it could handle in the season opener. SC needed to block an extra point and then score a fourth-quarter touchdown to squeak out a 7-6 victory.
Bryan Station, which last defeated Scott County in 2014, ultimately advanced to the third round of the playoffs before losing to Paul Laurence Dunbar.
That segues nicely into Scott County’s second home game of the season on Friday, Sept. 17, when it will host PLD in its final tune-up for district competition. SC rolled, 53-8, in the teams’ most recent meeting back in 2018.
District play opens with the marquee matchup — Scott County at Frederick Douglass — on Friday, Sept. 24. The teams didn’t meet during the 2020 regular season, but the Broncos got the final word with a 39-21 triumph in the district title game. SC’s last win in the series was a 28-27 thriller in the second round of the 2018 playoffs.
Scott County’s cross-town battle with Great Crossing, held as the opener in its first two seasons, is pushed back to Friday, Oct. 1. SC backed up its 72-7 rout in 2019 with a 49-18 victory a year ago.
The Cardinals will play their last two district games at home as well, starting with a Thursday night contest against Grant County on Oct. 7. Montgomery County then comes to town Friday, Oct. 15.
To ramp up for the playoffs, Scott County will ride the bus to a pair of likely barnburners in the final two weeks of the regular season. SC goes to Ballard on Friday, Oct. 22, and renews another long-dormant rivalry at Lexington Catholic on Friday, Oct. 29.
SC and Ballard couldn’t work out their scheduled meeting last fall, which means this will be the first return engagement since the Cards’ come-from-behind, overtime win, 46-45, in 2019.
Longtime fans have been clamoring for the Cards to get another crack at the Knights since Lex Cath won five consecutive games over SC from 2004 to 2008. Catholic claimed a 16-10 victory in the last go-round before the series fell silent.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.
SCOTT COUNTY FOOTBALL
At Birds Nest Stadium unless noted
Aug. 20 - vs. Franklin County, 6 p.m.
Aug. 27 - at Lafayette, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 3 - Bye
Sept. 10 - at Bryan Station, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 17 - vs. P.L. Dunbar, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 24 - at Douglass, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 1 - vs. Great Crossing, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 - vs. Grant County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 15 - vs. Montgomery Co., 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 22 - at Ballard, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 29 - vs. Lex. Catholic, 7:30 p.m.