Casey uses speed, quick scores to bury Estill
IRVINE — Casey County football practices are frenzied affairs. As soon as the Rebels hit the practice field, they’re going full speed.
“When we’re there at practice, we start as soon as we hit the field,” Casey quarterback Breece Hayes said. “It’s nonstop. People say, ‘Y’all don’t do much conditioning.’ Well, no, we don’t, but I’m telling you we do not stop the entire practice. (Coach Steve Stonebraker) gives us 20 seconds to snap the ball, then we’re going on to a whole new thing.”
It’s how they want to play in games, too — play like you practice and all that. And Friday night, it paid off in an historic way.
The Rebels scored twice in less than five minutes to open the game, adding two more scores before halftime en route to a 49-21 win over host Estill County in the Class 3A playoffs. With the win, Casey established a new record for wins in a season (10) and advanced to the program’s first ever region final.
Hayes stomped on the gas pedal on the first snap, finding Collin Miller down the home sideline for a 47-yard gain to the Engineers 16-yard line. Two plays later, Hayes took it to the house for a 13-yard scoring run only 77 seconds into the game.
“We want to get out fast, go fast, there’s no breaks when we’re playing,” Hayes said.
The Engineers answered right back, though, with a typical Estill drive, running the ball on all six plays, including Blake Francisco’s 44-yard TD run for a tie game.
But that was as close as Estill would get.
On the ensuing kickoff, Miller made another spectacular play, hitting a hole up the middle and out-racing the Engineers to the end zone for an 83-yard scoring return. Earlier in the week, Stonebraker had told his players he believed they could run a kick back.
“They did a good job of blocking that thing, Collin hit the seam, and I don’t know if he was touched the whole way,” Stonebraker said. “… He’s a heck of a playmaker all the way around.”
Miller had four touches on offense for 86 yards, an average of nearly 22 yards every time he had the ball in his hands.
“He’s no doubt the best player in this area, there’s no questions about it,” Hayes said of his teammate.
Casey’s defense held for a three and out on the next possession, and it was once again the offense’s turn. This time, the Rebels used the ground game, running on eight of the 10 plays in the scoring drive. Dalton Summers ended the drive with a 3-yard run.
Estill managed to string together nine plays on its next possession, but it turned over the ball near midfield on fourth down. Miller cashed in a 15-yard run on third down and 11 when Casey took over, followed by two straight Hayes completions — 29 yards to Gary Propes and a 14-yard TD pass to Britt Pendleton on a broken play.
“I looked down at my wrist band at the 200 plays we got and I read the wrong play,” Hayes said. “I was expecting a flair to the left and that wasn’t it, so I just rolled and made something happen because I’d rather score and (Stonebraker) be mad at me than not score and get mad.”
Casey’s defense stuffed Estill on fourth down to end its next drive on the Rebels 15, but when they came out for offense, Hayes was sent to the sideline by the official because of blood on his pants. On the first play, Pendleton’s pass was intercepted by Francisco, who easily walked into the end zone for a 28-14 score.
Casey added two more scores in the third quarter to put the game to bed. On the Engineers’ second play of the quarter, junior lineman Austin Campbell recovered a fumble at Estill’s 18. It took five plays, but A.J. Glenn finally punched in the score from the 1-yard line.
“They’re a double wing team, and you don’t see that much, but they’re a run-heavy team, so if you’re able to get a good lead on them, it gets them out of their comfort zone,” Stonebraker said.
The Rebels defense once again stopped Estill on a fourth down on its next drive, and they grabbed the opportunity. Hayes ran for 23 yards on the second play, and Preston Tucker rocked up the Casey sideline for a 45-yard TD run on the next play and a 42-14 lead.
“Our interior guys did a great job with their pad level, being able to not get their heel line moved, and get their offense off the field,” Stonebraker said.
Estill’s Dawson Bingham cut into the lead with an 8-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter, but Casey steadied on its next drive, sacking Engineers quarterback Hunter Osborne twice.
Propes and Hayes put the icing on the win with a 15-yard TD pass later in the fourth.
Hayes completed 7-of-13 passes for 143 yards, with Miller and Propes each hauling in two catches. Tucker had seven rushes for 107 yards to lead the offense.
“Kids always ask, ‘Are we going to be a running team or a passing team?’ and I say, ‘We’re going to take what the defense gives us.’ We need to be able to do both,” Stonebraker said.
The Engineers (9-3) came into the game averaging over 338 yards per game on the ground, but Casey held them to 255. Eighteen of their 49 rushing plays went for two yards or fewer, and they were stopped for negative yardage five times.
“You want to keep them out of the end zone, you want to force them to do some things they don’t want to do,” Stonebraker said. “We totally took them out of what they wanted to do.”
Casey will travel to face Corbin in the region final at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Redhounds won the regular season matchup, 35-7. In the moments immediately following that loss, Stonebraker already had his players focused on this possible rematch, with much more on the line than a regular season district title.
So every step the Rebels take from here is adding another page to the history books, but Hayes isn’t looking back into what was — he’s focused on what’s to come.
“They keep talking about the past, and the past doesn’t mean anything to us,” he said. “We know all about it, we battled through it. We’re ready to move on to the future, we’re ready to make a name for ourselves and do big things.”
Follow Jeremy Schneider on Twitter @jschneideramn