Vaught's Views: Garrard coach ready for 'Stonebraker Bowl'

September 30, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

No one has to tell Steve Stonebraker how much Casey County would like to beat his Garrard County football team Friday.

It's incentive enough that the game in Lancaster will be the Class AA district opener for both teams. However, what adds even more mystique to the game is that Stonebraker was head coach at Casey in 1999 and 2000 before taking over at Garrard in 2001.

If that's not enough, Stonebraker's top assistant at Casey, Andy Stephens, is now the head coach at Casey and continued the rebuilding process Stonebraker started before a rash of injuries temporarily derailed that progress this season.

Garrard is a prohibitive favorite going into the "Stonebraker Bowl." The Golden Lions have won four straight games since a season-opening loss to Dunbar and amassed 558 yards of total offense in a 52-27 victory over Mercer County last week. Casey is only 1-4 and lost 10-7 to Lincoln County in its last outing before having last week off.


Still, Stonebraker knows this is the game that many Casey fans have been waiting for since statewide realignment put the two teams in the same district and set up the first meeting between the two area teams since 1990.

"I will always have fond memories of my time working in Casey County," Stonebraker said. "There are people there I will always remain friends with forever. I will always be indebted to the people there who hired me as a 24-year-old head coach. People always said I was taking a chance going to Casey, but they rolled the dice with me as well because at that time, I was the only head coach in the state under the age of 30.

"I like to think that it was something that worked out for both of us. I know there are people there who feel very bitter toward me for leaving. That's just part of coaching. Does that bother me? Of course not. I didn't get into coaching because I wanted to become the mayor of Liberty or Lancaster, and I don't plan to run for governor. I don't have to be loved by everybody to be successful."

Stephens was the perfect choice

Stephens and Stonebraker remain friends and Stonebraker thought Stephens was the perfect choice for Casey's coach when he left. Stephens said the two normally spend time together at the state football finals in Louisville each year.

"I think when he left here he wanted the program here to succeed and I felt like he thought I could do that," Stephens said.

Stonebraker was 10-11 at Casey and got the Rebels into the playoffs for the first time in 2000. If those numbers don't impress you, Casey was 1-48 in the previous five years before Stonebraker arrived. He went 7-4 in his first season at Garrard before the Golden Lions stumbled to a 4-6 mark last year.

Stephens had a 2-8 record in 2001 before improving to 7-4 last year when got Casey back into the playoffs. Stephens upgraded this year's schedule to help prepare for another playoff run, but the Rebels have been hit with several key injuries starting with the season-ending knee injury to quarterback Kyle Long in the preseason.

Still, one gets the impression that Stephens thinks way too much is being made of the Stonebraker connection in Friday's game.

"The last time I checked, me and Steve were neither one allowed to suit up and play," Stephens said. "He's going to call his 'O' (offense) to win and I'm going to call my 'D' (defense) to win. The 'Stonebraker Bowl' is something for the papers to write about."

And it is darn good writing, too, because there has been talk about this game from both Casey and Garrard fans since the schedule was announced.

"I know there are a lot of people in Casey County that have had Oct. 3 circled on their calendars since last spring," Stonebraker said. "But it's an important game for us, too."

A little revenge, a lot of pride and playoff implications. It's the perfect scenario for the "Stonebraker Bowl" and while the game may not have statewide implications, it will be one fans in two counties certainly can't wait to see.

Larry Vaught can be reached at

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