Red heat

Grant County running back Nate Kaiser gets thrown for a loss by Scott County tacklers, from left, Audwin White, Kevin Herbert and Alex Patton, during the Cards' 56-0 shutout Thursday night at Birds Nets Stadium.

Shutouts are hard to come by in high school football, even – or perhaps especially -- when you’re consistently good as Scott County.

Some nights the defense spends most of the game breaking the sweat after the Cardinals’ offense scores in one or two plays. Or the starters are long gone in the second half once the game is out of hand.

So Thursday night, despite a smallish crowd due to the scheduling quirk during fall break, and against a badly over-matched Class 5A district opponent, SC’s 56-0 shellacking of Grant County was met with satisfied smiles.

It was the first doughnut, goose egg, call-it-what-you-will on the opponent’s side of the scoreboard since a 2015 playoff win over George Rogers Clark.

"We try to do that every night," SC senior Tasian Stakelin said. "It just went our way this night, I guess."

Scott County (7-1, 2-1) held Grant County (3-5, 0-3) to a paltry 2.6 yards per play, delivered 13 tackles for loss, forced two turnovers and threw in a late goal-line stand by the junior varsity for good measure.

Kevin Herbert’s six tackles included three behind the line of scrimmage for a massive swing of minus-21 yards.

The Braves were forced to reconfigure their attack without quarterback Conner Knipp, who has 16 touchdown passes on the season but was injured in last week's loss to Frederick Douglass. Logan Sutherland, normally a slot back, moved behind center.

"They were trying to run off the edge, and we had to stop them from getting outside," said senior linebacker Rylan Reed, who shared the team high with seven stops. "We stuffed them up the middle pretty much."

And the Cardinals’ high-powered offense was its usual self, with the starters scoring on a staggering seven of 14 plays before calling it a night.

The Braves didn’t help their own cause by never punting, even peculiarly in multiple situations of fourth down and 20 or more yards to go, deep in its own end.

"Coach (Mike) Davis works there, He's the special teams coordinator, and they've been going at it all week," Stakelin said. "They said they weren't going to punt at all, and every kick was going to be an onside kick, and they did it."

Grant County recovered that initial squib on the opening kickoff when it slipped through a series of Scott County fingers.

Two errant snaps backed up the Braves on a fruitless first drive, though, and the rout was on.

Bronson Brown scored on three of his four touches for Scott County. His scoring runs, all untouched, covered 4, 11 and 38 yards.

All three of Cade McKee’s pass completions went for touchdowns.

Mikaleb Coffey caught a 75-yard bomb to give SC a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Micah McClave’s consecutive scoring grabs of 25 and 7 yards capped the half and made it 42-0 to trigger the running clock.

"I thought we looked pretty sharp tonight. I probably have held Cade back a little bit," SC coach Jim McKee said of his son. "He's probably a little bit better than what I've allowed him to do, and he's really looked good the last two weeks. He was really on the money tonight."

Philip Garner rushed for a team-high 86 yards on only five carries, making him the Cards’ first 1,000-yard gainer on the season.

Two sophomores provided bookend touchdowns on the ground. Montago Jones went 48 yards on SC’s first play from scrimmage. Luke Colvin pounded in from nine yards out for the capper with 2:26 remaining in the third quarter.

Scott County’s time of possession was remarkably only 10 minutes and 54 seconds in a 48-minute game.

"You know, the facts are the facts. We're much more talented than they are," McKee said. "We're taking some positive steps forward, no doubt. You can't just reinvent the same motivational tool. I've got to do everything in my power to keep them motivated every day, every second they're in the field house."

Jacob Carretti had an interception to lead Scott County’s defense. Alex Patton matched Reed with seven tackles.

Nate Kaiser labored feverishly with 34 carries for his 107 yards to lead Grant County, which produced only 55 yards from other sources.

"We have to keep the intensity going, improve every day we're practicing, and stay hype even if there's not a big crowd," Reed said. "We've just got to keep doing what we do." 

SC held two prior opponents – Great Crossing and Bryan Station – to seven points.

The Cards will look to lock up the No. 2 seed in the district playoffs, and a first-round home game, when they host the Indians of Montgomery County next Friday.

"It feels good for now, but we've got to keep improving," Stakelin said. "We can't be satisfied."

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