Casey seeking to extend its momentum into playoffs

October 29, 2003|JILL ERWIN

LIBERTY - The suspense is gone, but Casey County coach Andy Stephens said he hopes the emotions will still run high Thursday night against Russell County.

Casey (3-6, 1-2 AA District 4) originally thought this game would be for a No. 3 seed in the upcoming Class AA playoffs. But even with a loss, the Rebels have already clinched the third seed, the first time they have earned that distinction. It's also the third time in school history, all in the past four years, that they have made the playoffs.

Now the game against Russell (1-8, 0-3), which was moved to Thursday to avoid competing with trick-or-treating in Liberty, becomes more about Casey's momentum than anything else.

The Rebels have won two in a row after a six-game losing streak. Thursday's game is senior night, and Casey will have 11 seniors playing in their final home game.


Stephens said he hopes that is enough to push his team to the victory.

"I told them we're at home and it's senior night," Stephens said. "If you can't get up to play for that one, then you're in a lot of trouble. Hopefully we can use that emotion to get ready to play."

Russell is coming off a 10-3 loss to Garrard County last week and is still looking for its first district win. If the Lakers were to beat Casey, and Wayne County loses to McCreary Central, Russell would still earn a playoff berth.

But Stephens isn't worried about Russell's payoff for a win. He's looking at his team and said the Rebels are playing well, but still have room to improve.

"I feel like we're playing better than we have in a while," Stephens said. "We still have things we need to fix, and we're still doing things you don't expect to do nine games into the season. We've won two in a row, and we're pretty confident about that, but there's still improvement to be made."

On paper, Russell doesn't look to be a tough opponent. But Stephens warns against looking past the Lakers.

Lakers have scored only 83 points this season

The Lakers have scored only 83 points all season, an average of fewer than 10 points a game. Their only win was a 16-15 win over Taylor County in the fourth week of the season.

Stephens said Russell's 1-8 record is misleading.

"They've actually played a really tough schedule," Stephens said. "They've been in most all their games at halftime, and just lost several down the stretch, in the fourth quarter. They're a pretty good team, they run pretty well, and they're big and physical up front."

Stephens said Brendan Smith, a 5-11, 150-pound senior, is one of the Lakers' top offensive threats. He can line up in the backfield, but also line up out in the slot and run routes.

Nick Huckaby is a 5-10, 170-pound quarterback, and he also relies on fullback Chris Willis (6-0, 220) for tough yardage.

Stephens said the Lakers have size up front, including 6-2, 260-pound sophomore Kennedy Colfey and 6-3, 225-pound senior Brandan Bennett.

"They're real physical up front," Stephens said. "That doesn't concern me as much, but they have a lot of different formations, and I'm afraid they'll get matchups that don't favor us, or they'll get in sets we'll have trouble covering with our defense. They run a lot of motion and that's my biggest concern, that we'll be out of position on defense and give up a cheap, easy touchdown."

The on-field responsibility for making sure that doesn't happen falls to 5-11, 230-pound linebacker Barry Burton. Burton has taken over the calls on the field, and Stephens said he has every confidence Burton will get the Rebels ready to go.

"He really functions as me on the field," Stephens said. "He's in charge of the huddle and he's really played well the last three or four weeks. He's doing a good job calling plays and getting the formations set."

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