Character counts

Philip Garner, left, and Bronson Brown are among the leaders of Scott County’s highly regarded football team.

Scott County seniors lead in the bright lights of one of state’s top programs

By John Herndon,

GEORGETOWN, Ky. — It’s often been said that character is what someone is when no one is looking. But when you are a main cog on one of Kentucky’s best high school football teams, people are always looking.

Always. Looking.

At least it might seem that way. And how a football carries himself at all times is a reflection of that character.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to talk with Jim McKee, the head football coach at Scott County High School for a couple of stories I was writing for some statewide print publications. Before I left his office, I mentioned I would certainly like to come back to Scott County for a feature story for this site. After all, the Cardinals advanced to the state Class 6A finals last year and have advanced at least to the regional finals 10 of the last 11 years. Scott has been to the state finals four times, winning it all in 2013, and has also won 10 games in the last 11 years.

Bronson Brown (13) and Philip Garner (third from left) join other Scott County seniors in leading the Cardinals onto the field for their game with Manual on Sept. 6. (Photos by John Herndon)

A school split to create Great Crossing High School this year has dropped Scott County to Class 5A, but, as usual, the Cards are still title contenders. So it’s obvious that McKee is doing something very right.

When I asked McKee about possible subjects for a story, he gave me the names of Philip Garner and Bronson Brown, members of his senior class who played major roles in the Cardinals 48-35 win over Louisville Manual last Friday. While the church-state separation that governs public schools can limit the specifics a coach can share, he said something even more telling, referring to his seniors as “awesome kids.”

For a few moments after a Cardinals’ practice this week, I saw why. For Garner and Brown, it would have been easy to still be basking in the glow of monster games the week before. All Garner, a running back, did was run for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Brown, his classmate, picked up 105 yards out of the Cardinals powerful ground attack and returned an interception for a touchdown.

Garner’s second score, a 13-yard jaunt with 13 seconds left in the third quarter with Brown tacking on the conversion to put Scott up for good at 36-28. Garner added another score with 8:02 to play, a one-yard plunge coming after his own 50-yard burst, then less than a minute later, Brown put the icing on the cake when he picked off a pass and returned it 55 yards to make it 48-28.

Philip Garner (4) looks for running room after taking a handoff from quarterback Cade McKee during the third quarter of Scott County’s win over Louisville Manual Sept. 6.

“I’d say it’s up there,” Garner smiled when asked if last week’s performance was the best of his career. “Top five probably. Manual is a Top 5 team in the state in 6A. They are very good, very well-coached and very athletic. So that definitely meant something.”

As Brown joined the conversation, Garner quickly noted, “And he got that pick-six!”

“I love things like that,” Brown said. “You just go ahead and jump into it. It’s a great play. Coach Monty (McIntyre, the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator) had it set up for us.”

No one was near Brown as he neared the goal line. “The first thing I thought was go celebrate with my team and then go straight to the crowd and hype them,” Brown grinned.

It’s the youthful exuberance that makes high school football so much fun.

But it’s also part of the excitement of being part of a big-time program. The Cardinals are out to erase the sting of that 37-20 loss to Male in the state final a year ago but reside in the same district with Frederick Douglass, another state contender loaded with Division I talent. They’ll battle at Douglass on Sept. 27 and could run into each other again early in the state playoffs.

A year ago, Brown was on the field as Scott made it to the state championship game, but Garner says his memories were soured by an injury suffered in a win over Lafayette. “In the second game, I broke my fibula and tibula in my right leg,” he says. “It left a sour taste, so I am really motivated to get back this year.”

The rehab involved three daily sessions of physical therapy over four months, but there was little evidence of the injury last week as Garner sped past defenders in the open field or rammed his way for tough yardage.

“It’s a joy to coach young men like those two whose parents have done such an outstanding job raising them.”

Scott County football coach Jim McKee.

But what Philip Garner and Bronson Brown did at halftime, when Scott trailed Manual, 14-12, might have meant as much as the 370 all-purpose yards and 26 points they combined for. “I told the guys at halftime if we didn’t pick it up, we were going to lose,” Garner said. “We picked it up and won.”

And Brown did the same. “We had a talk at halftime because they were beating us. I had to talk to a couple of players on defense just to motivate them and get them back on their feet.”

It’s the leadership that character makes effective.

“I try to lead by example. My little brother is on the freshman team here and they look up to me, so I try to lead however I can,” says Garner, who has a penchant for wearing Bible verse bracelets.

One of his favorites is Joshua 1:9 which says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Bronson Brown cuts for more yardage against Manual defenders Eli Blakey (1) and Eric Dickerson (18). Brown’s teammate, Jeremy Hamilton, blocks against Dickerson.

2 thoughts on “Character counts

  1. Truly a blessing! These young men set the standard what it means to be great athletes and leaders are the football team! I’m very proud of my grandson Bronson, to watch him on that field he is a gifted and talented athlete. Not only does he give 100% on the field he does in the classroom and our community our family is truly blessed by his successes and accomplishments!


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