In the aftermath of the Scott High School game Friday night, which Henry County lost 69-12 giving up 42 first-half points and 476 yards on the ground, the Wildcats are trying to get back that winning spark that saw them dominate their first four games of the season and win five of their first six.
Since that time, the Cats’ spark has fizzled out, which has led to three district losses (North Oldham, Western Hills and Spencer County) and the disappointing Scott performance Friday night — the worst loss for the Cats since a 68-0 game against Boyle County in October 2000. Due to ill-timed injuries, which has depleted Henry’s roster to well below full strength, the Cats finished the regular season at 6-4 and will travel to Central, the top team in Class 3-A, in the first round of the state playoffs this Friday night.
“I would wager that since I’ve been here this is the most disappointing game I’ve been a part of,” said Chris Engstrand, whose team fell behind 21-6 during the first quarter and 42-6 at the half. “It wasn’t so much from an execution standpoint, but from an effort standpoint. My expectations are much bigger than that and I let them know it. More than anything, I was just disappointed.”
As seen from the sideline, Henry was nowhere near 100 percent against a much larger Scott squad, who entered the game with a 3-6 record as a 5-A school. Linebacker Erick Butler, nose guard Zach Rahm, safety Justin Hartlage and linemen Matt Butts all missed the game, while linebacker Steven May, receiver Matt Long, lineman Brett Downey and lineman Dylan Doll all had their minutes limited due to injuries. Also, there were a number of other players that were playing through setbacks, including Kevin Quire, Darien Ingram, Cody Hinkel and Jimmy Sampson. Butler is out for the rest of the season while the rest of the Cats are questionable on a return.
“When you lose just a couple of guys on a 3-A team then that has a huge impact on that team’s ability to perform,” Engstrand explained. “At the same time, we can’t think woe is us for these injuries. As coaches we just have to play the hand we’re dealt.”
Scott finished with three players with more than 100 yards rushing en route to a dominating performance on the ground. The Eagles had five more first downs than Henry (21-16), rushed the ball for 375 more yards (476-101), had 280 more total yards (523-243), scored eight more touchdowns (10-2), and forced the Cats into five fumbles while not committing any turnovers.
Offensively, Henry went to the air with sophomore quarterback Luke Magness completing 12-of-26 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown. Cody Miracle caught four passes for six yards, Hinkel caught three passes for 50 yards, Hayden Yancey caught three passes for 19 yards, Sampson caught two passes for 56 yards and Patrick Mahoney caught one pass for 11 yards. Also, Magness kept the ball 12 times for 35 yards, while Miracle ran the ball nine times for 34 yards, Conner Johnson ran the ball two times for 21 yards, Jaccori Baldwin ran the ball five times for 15 yards and Lance Timberlake ran the ball one time for 10 yards.
The scoreboard was close early on until the Eagles started to pull away. Scott scored on a 2-yard run three minutes into the game and Long blocked the extra-point kick. Henry then answered with its own touchdown when Magness threw a quick pass to Sampson, who sprinted 49 yards along the sideline for the untouched touchdown. Henry’s kick was also blocked to leave the score tied at 6. That was the final time Henry would score during the first half.
Meanwhile, Scott scored two more times in the first quarter and three times in the second to take a comfortable lead into the half.
The Cats managed to score their final touchdown with 10:02 left in the third quarter on a Timberlake 10-yard carry — his only run of the game. The Eagles then scored 27 unanswered points to come away with the convincing 57-point victory against a team that was, when healthy, one of the best defenses in the entire state.
“When a team gets knocked down, they have two choices: either stay down or get back up. I hope our guys learned a lot about this game that they can apply in life,” Engstrand said. “I can handle getting beat — that’s going to happen and that’s why we play the game. But I’m at a loss for words for how it happened. It’s frustrating. Hopefully we come out of this game with a different attitude.”
The Cats will face a tough Central team this Friday on the road in the opening round of the playoffs. Central was 6-3 during the regular season with quality losses to St. Xaiver (ranked No.1 in the entire state), Highlands (No. 3) and DuPont Manual (No. 18).
The Yellowjackets are the No. 1 seed from District Three while Henry is the No. 4 seed from District Four, which paired the two teams together in the new cross-district playoff setup.
“I hope to go in and shock Central,” said Engstrand, whose team went 9-4 last fall and advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. “It’s one of those things were our seniors have the chance to pull off one of the great upsets or leave with a really bad memory. If we fight until the end, regardless of the score, I’ll be proud of these guys.”
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