After forcing three fumbles as a sophomore defensive contributor at Great Crossing two autumns ago, Da’Quis Brown gave up football to focus on basketball before last season. He didn’t plan to play as a senior, either, after transferring to Scott County in mid-winter.
That all changed when SC coach Jim McKee offered Brown a uniform a few weeks after the start of summer workouts and put him in at wide receiver for a few fruitful September plays against Bryan Station and Paul Laurence Dunbar.
It all set the stage for a fitting hero – one of many for the Cardinals – in Friday’s 43-0 rout of the Warhawks, keeping SC undefeated in five showdowns with its upstart neighbor before an estimated crowd of 4,500 at Birds Nest Stadium.
Brown set up shop behind the Great Crossing secondary for touchdown catches of 43 and 26 yards from sophomore quarterback Andrew Hickey in a four-minute, 23-second span of the second quarter.
“I haven’t played football for quite a while, so it feels good to come back and get a dub with my team against our cross-town rivals,” Brown said. “My quarterback led me to the right spot. I had to go get it.”
Hickey, who barely had time to set his feet and throw and never completed a pass a week ago in SC’s initial loss of the season to mighty Frederick Douglass, also launched a 41-yard scoring strike to Ellis Huguely.
He nine of 13 passes for 184 completed yards after starting the night with a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a score, set up by a 37-yard scamper from Huguely, who exploded for 154 all-purpose yards.
“It’s nice knowing that we can put the defense on edge not knowing what we’re gonna do with the ball,” Hickey said. “It’s good to have those guys when we need ’em, and we can break loose.”
Surprise was the operative word on the evening.
While torching GC with its undersold passing attack, SC piled up 425 total yards, in one night nearly matching the 482 yards and 47 points the Warhawks gave up in a five-game unbeaten streak to start the season.
History and relative strength of schedule suggested the Cards were a favorite, but results hinted at nothing quite like this. Although both teams are now 5-1, Scott County now has a giant leg up in the chase for playoff seeding.
“We had some big plays, explosive plays on defense that we felt like we were in good shape, and all of a sudden we give up the big play,” GC coach Ricky Bowling said. “That’s deflating for a defense, and then you flip over to offense and you’re having to battle for yards, and it’s hard to stretch the field and do some different things.”
Thomas Feickert and Aaron Klein each stacked on 1-yard touchdown runs in the second half for Scott County, whose swarming defense didn’t give up a run longer than eight yards until the Warhawks’ final possession of the night.
Time expired on that drive at the Cards’ 12-yard line, sealing SC’s first shutout both in the series and on the season. Scott County blanked Lafayette and Paul Laurence Dunbar in 2021.
“We practiced all week for this knowing what the emotion was gonna be like on the field,” said senior nose tackle Cam Keller, who led SC with eight stops. “A shutout, you couldn’t hope for anything better, and on top of that a running clock.”
Paul Garner and Buddy Collins added interceptions for the Scott County defense. Elijah Adams and JaSante Harmon each chalked up seven tackles.
“I’d say we’ve got the No. 1 defense in the city … in the state,” Brown said.
That was expected to be a two-way street, and conventional wisdom prevailed for a while. Clayton Shaddix and Cayden Allen combined for a tackle for loss on third down to help GC get a stop on downs at its 33-yard line on SC’s opening march.
Scott County then ran into Great Crossing punter Jack Herald to extend the Warhawks’ initial possession, but Harmon sacked Caden Bays to atone for that.
The Cards contained Bays, who stepped in for senior Gabe Nichols due to an unspecified illness, to one pass for eight yards on the evening.
“They did a great job,” Bowling said. “They were able to pin their ears back a little bit on defense understanding that situation, and we’re not gonna make any excuses whatsoever.”
Huguely’s second consecutive long run covered 37 yards on SC’s next parade, with Shaddix tripping him up just shy of the goal line. Hickey finished the job with 1:28 remaining in the first quarter.
Two GC drives died just on SC’s side of midfield early in the second period. Adams stuffed Allen at the Cards’ 35-yard line on fourth-and-1 to end the latter excursion, moments after the Warhawks lost senior lineman Chucky Wilson to a knee injury.
“A lot of that fed off the emotion of this team,” Keller said. “If there’s anything we’re great it, it’s feeding off the emotion of others. If one of us is down, the others are gonna bring us up. All together this team flows on emotion, and we showed that tonight.”
Scott County piled up three touchdowns before the half to put it away.
Hickey sold his fakes and went over the top to Brown in single coverage for his longest TD throw of the night with 4:51 left.
“I’m really proud of him,” SC coach Jim McKee said of Hickey. “He missed one throw early. He never got settled last week, and didn’t get settled right away tonight, but once he got settled, the first pass that came out of his hands was like zoom, and he was right on the money.”
Collins put the Cards back in business with his interception, the apparent touchdown return wiped out by a block in the back.
No matter: Hickey hit Huguely with another play-action bomb at the 1:24 mark. Chasing the points after a bad snap on an earlier extra point attempt, SC dusted off one of its favorite two-point conversion plays, with Eli Lilly catching a flip on a flanker reverse and finding a wide-open Isaac York for a 21-0 lead.
SC then used a timeout on its next defensive series, seemingly daring GC to throw the ball instead of playing it conservatively and running out the clock. The Warhawks threw two incomplete passes that stopped time, then shanked a punt to furnish the Cards one more red zone opportunity.
Shaddix threw Brown for an 8-yard loss on a quick screen before Hickey fired a rainbow over two defenders and found him at the right front pylon on the very next play.
“You just get more calm and trust your guys more in the backfield. You’re more comfortable and can make an easier throw,” Hickey said of the blocking from his offensive line. “It gives me more confidence in what we can do with other tough games, that we’ve got what it takes to play all four quarters even when we’re down or have stuff that doesn’t go our way.”
Garner started the second half with his third interception and fourth takeaway of the season.
Scott County didn’t score off that exchange thanks to a strip sack by Clay Spradlin, but Keller made two tackles on the ensuing three-and-out to deny the Warhawks any whiff of a momentum swing.
he rout was in stark contrast to SC’s loss to Class 5A No. 1 Douglass by a nearly identical score, 41-0, one week ago on the same field.
“It says that football is a love and hate relationship,” Keller said. “One day you get dealt a bad hand or you don’t get you want, and the next day you get what you dreamed for. That’s football.”
Hickey and Huguely hooked up again for 35 yards to set up Feickert’s date with the end zone. Ian Stanley’s kick punched the mercy clock.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Great Crossing on a punt return and a series of hard runs by Kayne Garrett set up Klein’s score.
It’s a team win. You can’t do it without your defense, your special teams,” McKee said. “Our kids are smart, and basically the loser of tonight’s game is behind the eight-ball. Barring something crazy, you’re gonna have to go on the road in the playoffs, and even if you can win that game, you’re gonna have to go to Frederick Douglass in the second round. We’ve done that. We’d rather not do that. We’re very honest and open with our kids about this is what’s on the line.”
Jacob Fryman (16 carries, 84 yards) and Huguely (seven rushes, 77 yards) helped SC pound out a 21-8 advantage in first downs.
SC will be a heavy favorite on the road against Grant County and Montgomery County in its final two district games. Two fellow top-25 opponents follow to wrap up the regular season.
“That’s just the team across town,” senior center Daniel Daff said. “We’ve got to worry about Ballard and Lex Cath. It’s gonna be a tough road ahead.”
GC accumulated 75 of its 121 total yards on the final drive of the evening. Jakeece Patterson carried 17 times for 80 yards.
The Cards, by comparison, moved the ball at will.
“They definitely have good-looking receivers out there. I think they opened up their offense a little bit more than what they have in the past, and we saw that tonight,” Bowling said. “They kind of exposed some areas where we were trying to stop the run, and they attacked it and were able to do that. Again, great play calling by Coach McKee and great job by Monty (McIntyre, defensive coordinator) to load the box and come get us. We didn’t have an answer.”