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Despite key losses on offense, Scott County looks to challenge Frederick Douglass for district title

(KyForward is previewing the upcoming prep football season for many programs in Central Kentucky. The season is scheduled to begin Sept. 11.)

By Chad Hensley
Special to KyForward

When looking up the word consistency in the Kentucky high school football dictionary, one program that will always be listed is Scott County.

Each season, the Cardinals of head coach Jim McKee are tabbed as a serious challenger for a trip to the state championship game. The 2020 version of McKee’s Scott County team is expected to once again make a push for a deep run in the playoffs.

Scott County posted a 10-2 record last season but bowed out in uncharted territory — a second-round loss in the playoffs. The Cardinals dropped a 24-14 decision to Frederick Douglass in the Class 5A District 6 title game.

Scott County’s other loss was also to Frederick Douglass by a 36-0 score, and the Cardinals will get a chance for revenge on Sept. 25. That’s when the Broncos head north to Georgetown for a matchup that could likely be for the regular-season district title.

Senior quarterback Zane Patton will get the call from McKee to lead an offense that will be looking to replace Philip Garner and Bronson Brown, a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in 2019. Garner is now attending the University of the Cumberlands, while Brown is staying close to home to play for Georgetown College.

Patton, who attempted just one pass in 2019, did enough in the offseason to win the starting spot.

“He has waited his turn, so to speak, and is a tremendous thrower and leader,” said McKee, who has a record of 219-70 in his 24th season as head coach at Scott County. “He will have a great year.”

Jeremy Hamilton, who is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior, would have been the favorite to pick up the most carries in 2020. But a position change will now see Hamilton as one of Patton’s targets at wide receiver.

“We moved Jeremy Hamilton from running back to wide receiver,” added McKee. “He is one of the only, if the only, kid that will play both ways for us. It is easier to play both ways at receiver and defensive back than running back. We can move him into the backfield when needed. He has an offer from Cincinnati, and we anticipate more offers soon.”

Hamilton totaled 244 yards on 26 carries and five touchdowns. He also added 153 yards receiving on just four catches with one touchdown. Hamilton will be a threat to gain big yardage every time he touches the ball.

Scott County’s big man and leader on the offensive line will be Jonathon Berry, a 6-foot-5, 273-pound left tackle. According to McKee, Berry has multiple college offers.

Both Berry and Hamilton are likely to challenge for all-state honors at their respective positions. With Hamilton’s move to wide receiver, McKee will now be looking at Jaxson Saylor to be his primary running back.

Saylor averaged 12.2 yards per carry in 2019. He gained 294 yards on 24 carries last year with four touchdowns. Scott County averaged 311.3 yards per game and totaled 57 touchdowns on the ground in 2019.

One new starter on the offensive line that McKee will look for a breakout season from is Ethan Miracle. “He will be a leader on the line and be really good,” McKee said of the 6-foot-3, 256-pound junior center.

With such an unproven offense taking the field, the defense will need to step up in a big way for the Cardinals.

McKee’s defense will return just five starters, but all are seniors and will be called upon to be leaders of a junior-dominated team. Cade Tackett, a senior inside linebacker, is the top returning tackler as he notched 41 total tackles with two for negative yardage.

Spencer Wood, Kevin Herbert, Campton Martin and A.J. Young are the four other returning starters on defense, and they combined for 85 tackles. Martin, who had four interceptions in 2019, will be a three-year starter and is getting the attention of multiple small colleges as is Wood.

McKee said that Herbert may have been “just a pup” as a starter in 2019, but he looks for Herbert to have a breakout season after putting in so much work in the offseason.

Jacob Bange will be back as the Cardinals’ place kicker. The junior was 55-of-63 on extra points and a perfect 3-for-3 when called upon for a field goal.

When asked about some of his team’s strengths, McKee said that his team has “top-level talent on the line and the skill (positions) have a kid at each that has at least FCS offers.”

“We also have a tremendous junior class that is big and talented,” he added. “We have 30 juniors total that went 9-1 as freshmen and 8-0 last year as a JV team. Tons of those juniors are really good players that did not start last year because we had a large senior class, but many of them will step right in and be outstanding players.”

McKee also cited the passion and work ethic that his players have as being strengths, in addition to the great support from the community each week as well as his coaching staff. Scott County is 53-15 the past five seasons with three trips to the state semifinals. The Cardinals also finished as state runner-up in 2018 after a dropping 37-20 decision to Louisville Male in the championship game.

For the Cardinals to make a deep run in the playoffs, McKee has front-loaded his schedule with four home games followed by four road games before a bye on Nov. 6.

Schools are normally allowed up to 10 regular-season contests, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the KHSAA recently announced that schools can only schedule up to nine games before the playoffs start.

The season will kick off on Sept. 11 against Bryan Station before a contest against cross-town rival Great Crossing on Sept. 18.

The Cardinals are joined in Class 5A District 6 by Great Crossing, Montgomery County, Grant County and Frederick Douglass.

The non-district schedule includes Bryan Station, Ryle, Ballard and Lafayette — all from Class 6A, where Scott County once dominated before dropping to Class 5A in 2019 after the creation of Great Crossing High School.

When asked about his team’s chances of returning to the state finals, McKee said, “We have played in four state title games since I have been here and five overall and lost in the semis multiple times.

“It just comes down to being healthy at the right time and catching a break here or there. (Class) 5A is good with Covington Catholic, South Warren, Owensboro, Douglass, Highlands and Bowling Green.”

While there is no guarantee that a football season will be played this fall, one thing is certain — Scott County does not rebuild. The Cardinals just reload and figure to be a dangerous team at playoff time.

Sept. 11 – BRYAN STATION, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 18 – GREAT CROSSING*, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 25 – FREDERICK DOUGLASS*, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 2 – RYLE, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 9 – @Grant County*, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 – @Montgomery County*, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 23 – @Ballard, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 30 – @Lafayette, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 6 – BYE
* = District Game

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