Casey isn’t playing just for kicks, but this game against a Class AAAAAA team that was a late addition to Lincoln’s bowl was expected to be anything but fun for the Rebels.
Casey had only 24 players in uniform, while Simon Kenton dressed nearly 80 players. However, the Rebels were their usual aggressive selves from start to finish. They scored the game’s first touchdown and they remained within striking distance until late in the third quarter.
Only about half of Casey’s 24 players played regularly, and they were spent by game’s end with several of them sitting or lying on the field during the postgame awards presentation.
“We’re going to be tired all year,” Marple said. “We’re not going to see 80 kids on the (other) sideline (again this season), but the other teams in our district are still going to be playing 14 more kids than us, probably. So we’re going to feel like this every single Friday night. We can say, ‘Aw, we almost won all these ballgames,’ or we can go win ’em.”
Alex Bolin, who rushed for a game-high 144 yards, broke free for an 80-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter that gave Casey a 7-0 lead, and Marple said it also gave the Rebels some reassurance.
“I think it gave us confidence. We feel like we’re as good up front as anybody, but once you actually bust one on somebody and the linemen up front see that guy running by them, I think it tells them, ‘Yeah, maybe we really are,’” Marple said. “One deep, we’re as good as anybody. These kids can roll.”
Simon Kenton answered Casey’s touchdown by scoring on its next two possessions on a 6-yard run by Brenen Kuntz and a 31-yard pass by Kuntz on the first play after a failed fake punt.
The Rebels were still within 14-7 at halftime, but they never seriously threatened to score a second touchdown, and any momentum they had at the start of the second half was wiped out by five turnovers.
“They were doing some things that really hurt our offense, and it kind of hurt our kids because we’re new at this offense. The way they were attacking the gaps, it hurts us a little bit because it doesn’t let us get into our misdirection,” Marple said. “Probably against a team not hardly as good as Simon Kenton, we could’ve gotten into a little more of that, but we had to get down the line quick and take what we could get.”
A 12-yard run by Rance Carman in the second quarter and another by Dillan Coffey in the fourth quarter were the only Casey plays besides Bolin’s touchdown that went for more than 10 yards.
Kuntz threw for 131 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 65 yards for Simon Kenton.
His second touchdown pass of the game to Jared Swanson gave the Pioneers a 27-7 lead in the final minute of the third quarter and essentially put the Rebels away.
Kuntz and Bolin were given the awards as the players of the game from their respective teams.
Marple, a 2002 Casey graduate, said he liked the way his team continued to play aggressively throughout the game — “We just kept on coming” — and the way the Casey offense tried to manage the pace of the game.
“We were constantly screaming, ‘Tempo!’” he said. “The tempo, and the way we approach the line of scrimmage and play between the whistles, that’s all we’re looking for. If we’ll do that, everything else will take care of itself.”
And Bolin said what the Rebels did in this game may help them later in their challenging schedule.
“I feel like we came in the game with our heads on our shoulders ready to play football, not intimidated by a 6A school that outnumbers us,” Bolin said. “They outnumbered us pretty good, and with all our team playing on both sides of the ball, we did pretty good. It’s going to help us out in the long run.”