All 5-foot-11 of Garrett Dennis came into Kroger Field on Saturday night and did what it did all season: dominated.
Male’s quarterback rushed for 188 yards and three touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 37-20 victory over Scott County in the finals of the Class 6A KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl.
The Bulldogs won their eighth state title, improving to 8-6 all-time in KHSAA championships. Scott County fell to 2-3 in the finals.
Dennis also was 10 of 13 for 113 yards. He finished his senior season — his only one as a starting quarterback — with 1,122 rushing yards and 16 TDs and 2,491 passing yards, 34 TD passes and a 66.8 completion percentage.
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He has pole-vaulted into the Mr. Football conversation and, after defeating St. Xavier, Trinity and Scott County in subsequent weeks to win a state title, might just have a shot at winning it.
“He’s a once in maybe a generation quarterback,” Male Coach Chris Wolfe said. “(His) measurables? Whatever. Measure that heart, man.”
Wolfe said Dennis has “the it factor.”
“If he was a little taller, a little faster, man, everybody’d want him,” Wolfe said. “But I tell ya what, somebody’s gonna be happy with him because he can flat-out play the game.”
Scott County halted Male on its opening drive but the Bulldogs punted to the Cardinals’ 2-yard line. Austin Barnett gained 2 yards for the Cardinals before they were driven back to the end zone for a safety on the subsequent run by Bronson Brown. Male then took a 9-0 lead with 3:58 left in the first quarter following a nine-play, 35-yard drive capped by Dennis’ first TD.
Scott County Coach Jim McKee put all the blame on himself for that nine-point hole. The punt that rolled to the 2-yard line wasn’t fielded.
“They outcoached us a little bit,” McKee said. “We never should have let ’em quick kick us to the 2 to start the game. That’s on me. I’m in charge of quick-kick defense, it’s 100 percent my responsibility.”
Scott County pulled to within 9-7 on a 5-yard run by Brown with 9:18 left in the second quarter before yielding another score to Dennis about three minutes later. Dennis scored again with 2:23 left in the period to give Male a 23-7 halftime lead.
The Cardinals kept it within striking distance out of the break. They pulled to within 23-13 on a 3-yard run by Brown, who couldn’t convert a two-point try. Male’s Vincel Anthony scored on a 3-yard run with 9:15 to play in the game to make it 30-13, but Scott County’s Austin Barnett returned the kickoff 79 yards to the Male 15-yard line and Brown scored a third time to bring the Cardinals within 30-20.
Scott County forced a punt at midfield with 4:47 left but Male ran a fake on 4th and 7 — Dennis completed a 20-yard pass to star junior Izayah Cummings — and marched down for another TD, Anthony’s second, with 1:27 remaining.
Dennis was briefly knocked out of the game momentarily prior to that fourth-down conversion. He said a nagging groin injury flared up he was brought down after a 6-yard gain, but Wolfe’s assessment was more colorful.
“I guess they had some Kryptonite or something for him,” Wolfe said with a laugh. “One play. He’s Superman, I tell ya.”
Brown rushed for 72 yards on 24 carries while Barnett added 61 on 14 rushes. Cade McKee was 4-for-7 for 108 yards; three of those balls went to Glenn Covington for a total of 95 yards.
Scott County ultimately wasn’t able to keep Male — or Superman — at bay, but McKee was proud of the Cardinals’ effort on Kentucky high school football’s biggest stage.
“I knew our kids would play extremely hard and I think they played extremely hard the whole way from behind,” McKee said. “We gave ourselves a chance to be in the game and stayed in the game the whole way.”
Dennis was nervous about moving into the starting quarterback role this year after playing other positions before this season but rose to the task. He currently doesn’t have any major college offers.
“I’m about 5-11, 185, (run) a 4.6 forty (time), stuff like that” Dennis said. “It’s not stuff that stands out but nobody’s gonna work harder than me. Nobody’s gonna outwork me. I don’t care who you are, how many stars, how many offers. Nobody’s gonna outwork me.”