George Rogers Clark entered Friday night with the dubious record of never defeating the Cooper Jaguars, but those memories were soon put to rest.
The Cardinals pitched a shutout on defense while scoring touchdowns with their offense and special teams en route to a 28-0 season-opening victory in Union.
“It’s exciting to see our kids playing hard from start to finish,” said second-year head coach Joe Chirico. “[I am] proud of our coaches and how hard they worked, and just super excited to get a win.”
Early on, both offenses struggled to find a groove, with junior linebacker Hayden Heath’s two sacks helping to kill Jaguar drives.
Halfway into the second quarter, arguably the biggest momentum-changing play of the game took place.
With the Jaguars set up to punt, sophomore Sam Clements and senior Landon Marcum broke through Cooper’s protection, blocking a punt picked up by senior linebacker Kareem Guerrant and returned 40 yards for a touchdown.
Later, on a fake punt, Guerrant would run 22 yards to help set up a 12-yard touchdown pass from Tyleik Maxwell to Jaylen Berry with just 59 seconds remaining in the first half. The Cards would go into the locker room with a 14-0 halftime lead. “We work on that all the time. We work on special teams. It was a good opportunity to go in there [and] we got the block”, Chirico said. “We called the fake punt. Again we were in good field position. Kareem [is] a phenomenal athlete. He made a play.”
In the second half, the GRC offense found its groove.
Following a long drive, former West Jessamine starter Bryce Chestnut scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 7:13 remaining in the third quarter.
Then, after the defense tightened to force a turnover on down with Cooper’s offense threatening, sophomore running back Kalen Washington was able to get the Cards past midfield with a 52-yard burst.
He later scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to help give the Cards a 28-0 lead with 11:49 left in the 4th quarter.
With the outcome decided, the Jaguars’ last attempt at scoring was stifled by an interception from James-Michael Davis.
“We talk about it all the time. Defense is more about art and effort”, Chirico said. “Our guys just ran around the ball and made plays. I was proud of all the things they did.”
Statistically, Washington finished the game with 17 rushes for 99 yards and one touchdown, while Maxwell carried 11 times for 37 yards, and Bryce Chestnut had seven rushes for 43 yards and one touchdown in his Cardinal debut. Maxwell also completed 10 of 13 passes for 93 yards with one touchdown. The team finished with 300 yards of total offense.
GRC (1-0) debuts at home on Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Madison Southern Eagles (0-1).