Football doesn’t lend itself to a grueling, drawn-out championship series at the end of a given season.
You get one chance to earn temporary bragging rights against another top-flight opponent during the regular season, then a playoff rematch if you’re lucky.
Every once in a while, two sides sustain their excellence long enough to produce a rivalry for the ages.
That’s what Scott County and Frederick Douglass have given us since 2017. Both sides own three emotional victories, with the tiebreaker (for now) to be held Friday night at Birds’ Nest Stadium in the district title game.
How did we get to this point? Here’s a game-by-game look at the first six rounds of this perpetual championship bout:
Oct. 6, 2017: SC 55, FD 21
The Cardinals captured their eighth consecutive district title and 10th in 11 years with a resounding rout of the first-year Broncos.
Austin Barnett had five short touchdown runs and a team-high 131 rushing yards to lead the Cardinals, who made it 11 consecutive wins against district opponents since a loss at Bryan Station in 2014.
“I’m not good with (uniform) numbers, but they have some great athletes,” Scott County coach Jim McKee said, “I’ve learned over the years you don’t say much about regular-season victories, because there’s always a chance you’ll see that team again.”
Nov. 17, 2017: SC 45, FD 13
The coach was right, but SC backed it up in the district final with another rout.
SC scored the first three touchdowns, rushed for 502 yards, led by Brice Fryman’s career-high 277 on 18 carries.
“The goal-line stand was big,” Scott County coach Jim McKee. “Then we were able to take it the length of the field and make it 21-0.”
Frederick Douglass (10-3) adjusted, answered with a touchdown and made multiple stops in a scoreless second quarter. The Cards used up half the third-period clock on their way to a 28-yard field goal by Colin Dempster, however, and dominated from there.
Oct. 5, 2018: FD 28, SC 10
Injury-riddled SC was driving to a potential tying touchdown when it fumbled inside the 5-yard line to start the fourth quarter.
Douglass went the distance on its next drive to stake its first claim to victory in the series.
“You’ve got to play the cards you’ve been dealt. We knew there wasn’t a big margin for error,” SC coach Jim McKee said.
Nov. 9, 2018: SC 28, FD 27
Austin Barnett rushed for 164 yards and a touchdown and Bronson Brown bagged 119 yards and three scores for SC.
The Cards jumped out to a 20-7 lead.
After the Broncos’ inevitable rally, SC broke up a two-point conversion pass and received a late sack from Bryan Hudson to seal the win, which triggered a run to Class 6A states before SC lost to Male.
“It was time. Our season was on the line,” Hudson said. “You’ve got to make big plays in big-time football games, so that’s what I did.”
Sept. 27, 2019: FD 36, SC 0
Scott County went 230 games and almost 18 full years without being shut out prior to a game in which Douglass took fuull advantage of early penalties, turnovers and short fields.
SC was held to 191 yards and had its one and only scoring opportunity thwarted by a goal-line stand early in the second quarter.
“That’s just a discombobulated, awful coaching job by me,” McKee said. “They were the more physical team. They were the more prepared team. They were the better team.”
Nov. 15, 2019: FD 24, SC 14
The Cards were closer, but they needed to be close to perfect. Cold weather helped to slow two high-powered offenses. Douglass (282) owned a slight edge over Scott County (235) in total yardage and had three takeaways to the Cards’ two.
“Hats off to our defensive guys and the whole defensive staff,” McKee said. “Our defense kept us in the game. We had every opportunity once we made it 10-7 and just didn’t seal the deal.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.