Henry County came out fired up at Scott High School in both teams' season-ending games Friday night, outscoring the Eagles 10-0 during the first quarter and hanging on to a 17-14 lead at the half. But after the break, the Wildcats, the smallest team in Class 3A, wore down and Scott, a much larger 5A team, poured it on. The Eagles took the lead early in the third quarter and pulled away to a 42-24 senior night win.
With the loss, Henry ended regular-season play at 7-3, but have already earned home field advantage during the first round of the state playoffs Friday night against Western Hills (1-9). Scott ended its season at 4-6 and will travel to Highlands High School (10-0) for opening-round action.
"We came out hot, which is kind of odd for our team after a long bus ride to Scott," Henry coach Chris Engstrand said. "We did some things really well and caught them by surprise. I don't think they expected us to be that aggressive."
Cody Miracle ran the ball into the end zone from one yard out during the opening quarter and Matt Doane kicked the extra point to give the Wildcats the early 7-0 advantage. Later in the first, Doane split the uprights on a 26-yard field goal, which put the Cats ahead 10-0.
Miracle managed to cross the goal line again during the second quarter, this time on a 15-yard carry, and Doane was once again good on the PAT. But Scott got on the scoreboard with two second-quarter touchdowns, the first on a run and the second on a pass, which closed the gap to 17-14 at the break.
The Eagles added two more touchdowns during the third quarter, taking advantage of the tiring Cats, and then scored twice more in the fourth. Meanwhile, Henry managed to score its final touchdown during the fourth when quarterback Luke Magness, who came in for Hayden Yancey, ran the ball 53 yards into the end zone.
"We came out strong and they eventually wore us down," Engstrand said. "Scott has a very physical ball club. And we had too many mistakes, which you can't do against a team that has 20-plus seniors like Scott."
Henry coughed the ball up on five turnovers - three fumbles and two interceptions - with four during the second half. Scott, also unable to hold onto the ball, finished with four fumbles.
Henry moved the football for 345 yards (196 rushing and 149 passing), while Scott moved the ball for 418 yards (221 passing and 197 rushing).
But during the second half, when the game twisted in Scott's favor, the Wildcats had just 14 snaps and, defensively, were worn down by Scotts 210-pound running back, a solid fullback and a large offensive line.
Yancey was 12-of-23 passing for 126 yards during the first three quarters. During the fourth, when Engstrand gave some of his key players a rest, freshman Magness came in and was four-of-seven passing for 23 yards, and added three carries for 70.
Cody Miracle carried the ball 15 times for 63 yards, Matt Long had four catches for 45 yards, Cari Dunaway had three catches for 45 yards and Travis McClanahan added three catches for 36.
With the regular season behind them, including this 42-24 loss, the Wildcats will host a team in the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
"I'm just glad we got all of this junk out of our system," Engstrand said of his team's second-half woes.
"I think our players were already looking ahead to the playoffs - they knew this game didn't mean anything as far as the playoffs go, and they knew I was going to take them out in the fourth quarter regardless how the game was going. Now, we're ready for the playoffs."
E-mail us about this story at firstname.lastname@example.org.