Garrard's Stonebraker is Area Coach of the Year

November 28, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LANCASTER - Going into the season, Steve Stonebraker worried that his Garrard County football team had only a small margin for error.

That margin decreased even more when starting quarterback Spencer Crutchfield went out with a season-ending hip injury in early October. Yet Garrard still won nine games and advanced to the second round of the Class AA playoffs.

That's why Stonebraker has been chosen The Advocate-Messenger Area Coach of the Year in voting by area coaches after leading Garrard to a 9-3 record.

"I really did think we had a chance to have this kind of record because of the character of the kids we have," said Stonebraker. "This year hopefully has been a big step for our program."


This is Stonebraker's second time to win the award. He was also named Area Coach of the Year in 2000 when he led Casey County to a 6-5 finish and Class AA playoff berth.

"This is nothing like the Casey County situation in terms of starting at square one with everything," Stonebraker said. "It has been similar in terms of player motivation because the kids here were not used to winning when I came in.

"There are things here in terms of administrative support and booster support that have gone as I anticipated. There are always things that people tall you and pump up and then you get into it and see that it is much different than what you have been told. But that's the case with any job and as a football coach, you have to learn to focus on what truly matters and that is building men, winning games and making money for your school."

Stonebraker is 30-23 in five years as a head coach - two at Casey and three at Garrard. Casey had lost 49 of 50 games before his arrival, including 46 straight at one time, but his first team went 4-5 in 1999. Garrard had not won nine games since 1995 and had not won a playoff game since 1999 before this year.

Stonebraker's passion for the game is one of his best attributes. He's a fiery coach, one not afraid to show his emotions before, after or during a game.

"In the last two or three years, the biggest thing that I have learned is that I will never be able to get everyone to love the game as much as I do," the Garrard coach said. "As a coach I have learned to accept that, but sometimes it can be difficult."

However, nothing will change his goal of coaching a state championship team.

"The thing that so many people don't realize, or maybe don't want to believe, is how much must be sacrificed to become a state champion," Stonebraker said. "That is why familiar teams go to the state every year. In places like Danville, Corbin, Trinity, Mayfield and others, there is a tradition established of making sacrifices to do the work it takes to win. It is part of the culture in those places.

"In order to establish that type of situation, the culture must be changed and that is so tough to do as a coach in a place that doesn't have it. There is good talent and coaching at those traditional powers, but there are other schools that have that at times. The things that separates the top programs from the others are all the sacrifices."

Stonebraker hopes his program learned some of those lessons this year, especially with the way it responded to Crutchfield's injury. The Lions lost only at Corbin in the district title game and at Elizabethtown in the playoffs after Crutchfield was injured.

"There is great power to positive thinking. When Spencer got hurt, I had to re-emphasize all of the positives that we had going for us and that we could make all of the adjustments to stay successful," Stonebraker said. "The great thing is how the players and assistant coaches responded.

"When Spencer went down, it was something we all hated. But it was also a great opportunity for other kids to prove their ultimate worth. At the start of the year, no one said we could win. Then no one said we could win without Spencer. Then with 52 seconds on the clock against DeSales and us behind, no one thought we could win and we did.

"Our whole season has been a dramatic series of events and it has all been due to believing in what we do and trying to reach our potential."

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