Casey County is playing with house money.
Records for regular-season and postseason wins have already been broken. The Rebels, 11-1 and playing in the regional round for the first time in program history, have nothing to lose when they head to heavily favored Corbin to try to avenge their only loss.
Rebels Coach Steve Stonebraker, in his second stint with the program, was jovial in a phone interview this week.
“It’s a good time of year for me to be busy,” Stonebraker said with a laugh. “We’ve had a ton of community support down here. People are really excited and, with their effort, the kids have given them a lot to be excited about.
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“Obviously, it’s been a good first-year return for me.”
Casey County gave Stonebraker his first head coaching job when he was 23 in 1999. He immediately turned around a program that had won a single game the previous five seasons prior to his arrival, winning four games in his first year.
The Rebels finished with their first winning record and postseason appearance in 2000 before Stonebraker became the coach at Garrard County. An assistant stint at Centre College followed that gig, which preceded other head coaching stops at Woodford County and Jeffersontown before he made his way back to Casey County this season. He enjoys the opportunity to come back and continue his career where it began.
“I’ve been all around this place,” Stonebraker said. “I’ve got good commonwealth of Kentucky perspective, no doubt.”
The roster swelled from 26 kids in 2015 to 48 this season, giving the Rebels enough depth to play a few guys one way. That makes a big difference in Class 3A.
If Casey County is going to play David to Corbin’s Goliath, its playmakers will have to show up and the Rebels will have to keep their mistakes to a minimum, Stonebraker said. He was happy with how his team controlled the defensive line of scrimmage in the first meeting, but thought Casey’s pass coverage enabled the Redhounds to end any bid for an upset in a 35-7 loss at home on Oct. 21.
Corbin, the second-ranked team in the class all year behind reigning champion Belfry, has surrendered a division-best 93 points this year. It beat its first two playoff opponents by a combined score of 100-8.
Breece Hayes and Collin Miller are offensive staples for the Rebels. Hayes, a Governor’s Scholar who’s just shy of 2,500 passing yards and has thrown 27 TDs, quickly adapted to Stonebraker’s pass-leaning spread attack. Miller, a “shifty, side-to-side” runner, has scored five different ways this season and is within reach of 1,000 receiving yards.
“They just give you a lot of trouble because they don’t give up big plays,” Stonebraker said. “ ... A lot of people would probably say we’re a big-play team, but we’ve put together a lot of consistent drives as well that have run more than five minutes of clock off, so we’re capable of doing both.
“The challenge obviously against Corbin is being able to do that consistently against a team that is solid at all 11 spots.”