Lexington Christian Academy, a proven football powerhouse in Class A, now gets a chance to prove itself in 2A.
Realignment bumped the Eagles up a division and put them in a district with Danville, Middlesboro and Somerset, three programs with a long history of winning.
LCA Coach Ray Graham admitted that his team was "a little shocked" at first with the move up in class, but it has since embraced the change.
"We see this as being exactly what the Lord has in mind for us, giving us a different challenge," Graham said. "It's going to make us tougher, better men."
LCA senior Clay Mossbarger said there'll be no difference in the players' approach.
"Being 1A or 2A doesn't matter. We have the same mindset of playing together and winning. We've played 2A, 3A and 4A teams in the past. It's just a matter of stepping up to the challenge."
LCA dominated its 1A district, won a state title in 2009, was runner-up in '07, and lost heartbreaking semifinal games in '08 and '10.
Danville, Middlesboro and Somerset will be a step up in district play, but Graham thinks his team's early schedule will get it ready.
"We may have some growing pains, but the way we're looking at it, we'll be ready by the time the district games come around," he said.
LCA's veteran defense will have to hold down the fort until the offense finds its identity and its play-makers.
Mossbarger, a veteran at free safety, leads the defense, along with linebacker Chad Hall and cornerback Adam Hilton.
Outside linebackers Austin Rains and Logan Messner will be counted on, along with linemen Evan Grant, Ben Farhat and Josh West, newcomer Robbie Fuqua and 6-foot-5, 260-pound sophomore Neil Rose.
"It was the same situation last year where the defense had to step up early while the offense got going," Hall said.
"We've got a lot of defensive starters back again, so we're ready for the challenge."
Graham hopes to two-platoon so that his players will be fresh for the district grind. But several defensive guys may see spot duty on offense, including Hall at fullback, Mossbarger (500 yards rushing and receiving last year) in the slot, the speedy Hilton at wingback, and some linemen seeing double duty.
"I like the idea of two-platooning as much as we can," Hall said. "It saves some bodies and some injuries."
The biggest offensive hole to fill is at quarterback. Scout McCamy graduated after leading LCA in passing (2,100 yards, 25 touchdowns) and rushing (1,011 yards, seven TDs) last fall.
It's been a three-way battle for QB this pre-season among sophomores Scott Hiler and Lincoln Henzman, and freshman Dima Ballard.
Graham said they're all pretty close in ability. Hiler is the biggest (210 pounds) while Henzman has the strongest arm.
Sam Maybriar, a running back and linebacker last season, will be used mostly on offense this year.
Maybriar rushed for 460 yards last year, but Graham thinks he can get 2,000 this year as the Eagles' featured back.
Josh West, younger brother of UK freshman lineman Zach West, may wind up at center, with Farhat and Rose also providing blocking.
LCA's first four games are against Christian schools, including three from out of state, followed by a road trip to former 1A rival Hazard and a home game against Frankfort.
Then comes the Eagles' new district opponents.
"If you go back and look at what Danville, Somerset and Middlesboro have done in the past, that's three top-of-the-line programs," Graham said.
"There may have been a little bit of doubt in our players' minds early on, but now they realize this kind of challenge is going to make us better."
Mossbarger said he and his teammates are ready.
"It all comes down to leadership, team unity and playing together," he said.
"Last year we were one step away from (the 1A state finals). That's motivation for us to try to get there this year, even if it is 2A."