It doesn't take long to find a Scott County High School football player in the spring. Just go to a baseball game.
The Cardinals advanced to the 11th Region baseball tournament quarterfinals with a 12-0 five-inning win over Franklin County on Monday. Like so many games over the last three seasons, some of their biggest contributions were by guys who also come up big in the fall.
There were the three scoreless innings pitched by sophomore Cade McKee, the Cards' likely starter at quarterback in the fall. There was a two-run shot over the fence by senior Brice Fryman, a speedy defensive back who happened to be celebrating his 19th birthday on Monday. There was a game-ending, SportsCenter-caliber snag in shallow center field from second baseman Cooper Robb, a three-sport senior who looked like he was lunging for an interception rather than a fly out.
Sophomores Sam Daniel, Philip Garner and Rylan Reed also played football in the fall. Baseball head coach Scott Willard leads by example when it comes to advocating for kids to play multiple sports over specializing in one; he's been an assistant coach with the football team for the last 14 seasons.
Willard and multiple players credited an in-school weightlifting class for helping players continue to build their strength for football while continuing to play baseball. It has the added bonus of helping them hit the ball further than they might if they were only committed to the diamond.
"I think if we just played baseball, there's no way we'd lift as much as we do," McKee said.
McKee and Sutton used to play basketball but have given themselves a small offseason between the fall and spring. Robb, the winner of this year's Wah Wah Jones Award for excellence in multiple sports, has been a starter in baseball, basketball and football during his last three years at Scott County. He could have played any of the three at the next level but signed with Charlotte, a Division I basketball program.
"Cooper is crazy," McKee said with a grin.
He might be right: Robb and the basketball Cardinals played for the boys' Sweet Sixteen title on March 18, a Sunday, and on Tuesday he was in the starting lineup for the baseball team's first game. Willard texted Robb after the game to congratulate him on a well-played basketball season and offered him the opportunity to skip a Monday baseball practice prior to their opener to get some rest.
"He was at practice Monday after playing Covington Catholic on Sunday afternoon," Willard said with a laugh. "He's just amazing to me, all that he does. ... I don't know what he'll do at Charlotte with all his free time."
Robb and the other Cardinals know nothing other than competition. Why surrender a chance to play if there's still a fire burning for it?
"It's just kind of normal to us and to everyone else it's 'How are they doing it?,'" Sutton said. "But we've been doing it all our life."
Jim McKee, Cade's father and the head football coach at Scott County, has spoken out against sports specialization throughout his career. He schedules his spring football clinic to avoid clashing with pivotal junctures in the baseball and track-and-field seasons, and loves seeing familiar names on the backs of jerseys regardless of what sport is in session.
“These kids are at the biggest high school in the state and they’re still succeeding in both," Jim McKee said. "At the end of the day, multiple sports are not for every kid. If (basketball star) Michael Moreno doesn’t want to play football that’s fine. If (football and track star) Bryan Hudson doesn’t want to play basketball that’s fine. But it should be that child’s decision."
Cade's made his choice.
"I'm only a kid once, so I'm gonna try to do everything I can right now while I'm able to," Cade said.