Swango's debut a winning one for Casey

August 24, 2003|JILL ERWIN

STANFORD - Josh Swango had no problem stepping up on the biggest night of his football career, and he had several Casey County teammates sharing the stage with him Friday.

Swango completed 6 of 9 passes for 111 yards and rushed for 40 more yards and two touchdowns in his first-ever start at quarterback as Casey outscored Harrison County 38-29 in the season opener at the Death Valley Bowl. The game's start was delayed more than two hours because of lightning.

With schedule starting quarterback Kyle Long relegated to only film duty while awaiting the results of an MRI on his injured knee, the Rebels' offense didn't appear to miss a beat, racking up 335 yards against the Thorobreds in the season opener.

"I was pretty bad nervous because it's big shoes to fill with Kyle," Swango said. "Kyle has done such a great job every year, his freshman year up to this year when he got hurt. This one's for Kyle tonight.


"There were some times I forgot the snap count and stuff like that. It's overwhelming because it's Friday night and the lights are flashing."

McGinnis, Delk have big nights

But Swango was hardly the only one to shine under the bright lights. Senior Blake McGinnis returned the second-half kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown - he also had another score called back because of penalty - and caught five passes for 88 yards.

Rex Delk scored three times for Casey, picking up 170 yards on 28 carries.

The defensive line proved to be stronger than expected, shutting down the middle of the field against Harrison's offense for much of the game.

"Defensively I felt like we came out really good early," Casey coach Andy Stephens said. "Our defensive line was a position I've been a little worried about, and they played good in the scrimmage and they played good tonight. That's probably one of our strengths now.

"We've got three of our four starters off last year's team in the secondary and you'd think that would be a strength. But they found something they could hurt us with and they really stuck with it and did a good job."

What Harrison found was the inability of Casey to cover receivers deep. Harrison quarterback Michael Kolodziej completed 5 of 10 passes in the first half, but none for more than 10 yards.

In the second half, Kolodziej was 8-for-12 with five of them going for more than 10 yards, including a 21-yard scoring strike in the third quarter.

McGinnis figured into Casey's first two defensive stands. Harrison's Billy Toomey was stripped by senior lineman Casey Brown on the second play from scrimmage and McGinnis recovered the loose ball at the Thorobreds' 47 yard line.

Swango eventually scored on a 29-yard run to give Casey a 7-0 lead.

On Harrison's next possession, Kolodziej completed a pass to J.D. Ashbrook, but McGinnis stripped him and Dustin Vest recovered.

A 14-3 halftime lead

Casey led 14-3 at the half, but Harrison had kicked a field goal right before the break. McGinnis said he felt like that gave the momentum to Harrison, something he had every intention of changing that.

The second-half kickoff went to Delk, who fumbled it near the end zone and handed it to McGinnis on the 1-yard line. McGinnis went up the Harrison sideline to push Casey to a 20-3 lead.

"I just told everybody, 'You all block. If you all set it up, we're going to return this. You all set up a wall,' and they did," McGinnis said. "I thought they had me at first, and I mean somebody laid a killer block at midfield that knocked someone seven yards back. It was open field after that. I only had to run by one guy and it was just running after that."

"We set up almost all of our special teams to give Blake a chance to get his hands on the football," Stephens said. "Every time he touches the ball, he's a threat to go."

The Rebels built a 32-10 lead on Delk's 8-yard run with less than a minute to play in the third quarter, but Harrison scored 19 unanswered points to draw within 32-29 with 3:05 to play in the game.

Three straight runs by Delk, including a 58-yard touchdown run after almost being dragged down in the backfield, gave Casey the lead. Brandon Raney's interception on Harrison's last-gasp pass sealed the win.

"I can look at the very first snap and I felt we played hard, and I can look at the very last snap and I feel we played hard. I felt like we did more right than wrong tonight, and any time you do that you can build on it," Stephens said.

Penalties were a problem for Casey, not necessarily for the total yardage but for what they cost the Rebels. McGinnis' 70-yard return was called back, as was a nearly 40-yard run by Delk.

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