Expectations high for Casey football team

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By Quincy Burt

It was historic, it was amazing, but it’s over.
2016 will be a football season talked about for a long time in Casey County, until one day some hardware gives folks a more historic season to talk about.
As for the 2017 Rebels, they will play with something few, if any, Casey teams before them have ever had to play with — a top 10 ranking.
“We had a great group of senior players last year,” coach Steve Stonebraker said. “Everyone knows that. I’m looking forward to everyone getting the chance to find out just how good our returning guys can be. They have put in a ton of mental and physical efforts to get ready for the season. We’re not worried about replacing anybody. We’re concerned with accentuating the strengths of our current players and getting them in a position to be successful.”
But how heavily does a top 10 ranking weigh on Stonebraker and the team?
“In the first preseason poll we were ranked as the No. 8 team in the state,” said Stonebraker. “We know how we finished last season, and it is great to have some high expectations. I tell our guys all the time that we are a top 10 team and have to continue to prepare like one.”
A season ago, all the talk was about how Stonebraker was returning for his second stint at the helm. This year, the talk is all about what is next.
It is well documented that Breece Hayes and Collin Miller will be hard to replace, but the depth of the roster is at an all-time high, and for a 3A squad, this year’s team will have multiple guys playing one way for the first time ever.
For the first time in four years, there will be a new starting quarterback, and right now, that’s Austin Campbell.
Last season, Campbell, a junior, connected on 10 of 11 passes for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns without an interception.
“Austin Campbell has had a good preseason preparing for his role as our starting quarterback,” Stonebraker said. “He is coming along well with his reads and ball delivery. He is very capable from both a mental and physical standpoint to succeed in the position.”
While Campbell is a newcomer as a starter, his weapons have experience.
“We return multiple starters in the receiver and running back spots with Dustin Richards, Britt Pendleton, Preston Tucker, and Dalton Summers,” Stonebraker said. “Senior Ivan Escalante, junior Zach Todd and sophomores Reece Brown and Adam Price can see time at receiver. Our most explosive receiver could be sophomore Haden Bastin who has really come on in just his second year of football.”
The offensive line has quite a bit of depth and will play a key role in keeping a potent offense going, but where Casey had to rely on out-scoring teams in shootouts last season, Stonebraker says his defense will have its games this time around.
“Last year when we got early leads and did things to try to ensure we got off to good starts, that was all designed to protect our defense,” said Stonebraker. “It’s going to be the other way around. It’s easier to play defense with a lead, so we were really adamant about coming out of the gate well. This year we should be a lot better on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Rebels won’t be able to fly under the radar this season with a top 10-size bullseye on their backs, but Stonebraker expects this team to be ready for the challenge.