High School Football

New stadium, new rivalry and a new football era gets underway in Georgetown

Photo slideshow: Scott County, Great Crossing face off in inaugural ‘Battle of the Birds’

Scott County and Great Crossing squared off Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in the inaugural "Battle of the Birds." The Cardinals' high school football team won the game 72-7.
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Scott County and Great Crossing squared off Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in the inaugural "Battle of the Birds." The Cardinals' high school football team won the game 72-7.

The crowd arrived early at Birds Nest Stadium in Georgetown on Friday night.

Really, really early.

More than an hour before kickoff of the inaugural “Battle of the Birds” between Scott County and Great Crossing, the bleachers were already packed with fans eager to witness the genesis of a new era in central Kentucky high school football. About thirty minutes later it was standing room only in the new state-of-the-art facility both teams will call home.

There was a palpable buzz of excitement among the crowd as the two squads took the field for warm-ups, Great Crossing’s first team running drills near the end zone emblazoned with their “Warhawks” logo while Scott County got loose near the opposite end zone, which sported its traditional Cardinals emblem.

The fans decked out in Cardinals red vastly outnumbered those wearing Warhawks green and blue. Great Crossing fans occupied a chunk that amounted to about one third of the home bleachers and were scattered among the Scott County fans throughout the rest of the stadium. The interactions among the rival factions appeared friendly ahead of the game, which the Class 5A title contender Cardinals won 72-7.

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Scott County and Great Crossing played in front of a capacity crowd for their inaugural meeting at Birds Nest Stadium in Georgetown on Friday night. Matt Goins

Ed Thompson and his significant other, Decarla Bell, were among the Scott County faithful. They got to the stadium more than 90 minutes before kickoff. Thompson, a longtime Cardinals fanatic who graduated from Scott County in 1988, said he expects the rivalry between the two schools to be fairly amicable.

“I think it’s going to become a great rivalry but I think it will be a friendly one,” Thompson said. “This is definitely something very different here, it’s got a strange feel to it. Scott County sports has been such a dominant part of this community for so long. I think both schools are going to have a lot of support. Give it a few years and I think Great Crossing will be really competitive.”

Thompson, who has a 12-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter who he says will both go to Scott County, anticipates a sizable number of locals will end up rooting for both teams.

“I know they’re planning to handle the schedule by each team having opposite away and home games … . I can see when Scott County has an away game and Great Crossing has a home game you could have a lot of people who can’t travel or don’t want to travel staying home and watching Great Crossing,” Thompson said. “I think a lot of older folks remember the old Great Crossing high school and probably feel some ties to that. But for me, I’ve only known Scott County and my kids will be going to Scott County. So there will be a lot more favoritism toward Scott County for me. But when Great Crossing is playing someone else I’ll definitely be rooting for them.”

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Great Crossing’s Jakeece Patterson ran the ball against Scott County on Friday night. Matt Goins

You can count Christy Lusk among those fans who now have split loyalties. She and her husband, Ricky Lusk, who’s a Georgetown police officer, moved to Scott County from Lexington 10 years ago. Christy Lusk, who was standing at the top of the bleachers near the expansive press box with several family members prior to the game, was sporting a Scott County hat and a Great Crossing shirt. Her oldest daughter, Carissa, chose to remain at Scott County for her senior year while her youngest, Kelsey, chose to switch to Great Crossing prior to her sophomore year.

“I’m truly divided,” Christy said with a laugh. “It certainly makes this an interesting game for us. I might be cheering on every play.

“We got here early and we were going to tailgate but it was already so packed we decided we’d go eat and come back. I wish we had just stayed, though, because I had no idea the seats were going to be this full.”

Asked about watching the two teams take the field for the first time, Lusk said “It’s a very strange feeling, very odd. We’ve waited a long time for this. It’s exciting, but at the same time we’ve got kids who’ve gone to school together since elementary. Now there are two different high schools and I know it’s been very odd for them, too, getting used to this.”

It will take some time for Great Crossing to build up to the point where it can rival Scott County in terms of on-field success. The Warhawks only have about a dozen seniors compared to 24 for the Cardinals. But Lusk said she expects the Warhawks to come into their own soon enough. And she believes the transition of Georgetown into a two-team town will only be a boon for the community.

“This is unreal,” Lusk said of the atmosphere. “Scott County has always had great sports programs and great support, but this is absolutely crazy. I think the shared facility and the new rivalry will be really cool for this town.”

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Josh Sullivan has worked at the Herald-Leader for more than 10 years in multiple capacities, including as a news assistant, page designer, copy editor and sports reporter. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Lexington native.