Nearly 6,000 yards of offense. Ten wins, including two over archrival Boyle County. A state semifinals appearance.
Lexington Catholic's first year under Mark Perry and the Air Raid offense he brought with him was a success by many measures. But for the fourth straight season, Highlands ended the Knights' season and left them waiting another year for a shot to make a state title game for the first time since winning the whole shebang in 2007.
"You wanna win it, and when you get close and you lose, it's bitter," said senior wide receiver Andy Thompson. "You don't like it one bit. But you come back, you work harder in the offseason and do things different than what you did in the previous year."
Jaylen Jones, a senior running back and all-city first-teamer last season, said the Knights have had to put up with that sour taste at the end of the season for too many years. He and his teammates are determined to not just make a title appearance but bring a third football trophy back to campus.
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"It's like almost reaching a goal," Jones said. "You get really close, but we just haven't finished yet."
The coaches listed LexCath among the favorites to take the Class 3A crown at the end of the year. While the Highlands hurdle no longer stands before them — the schools are in different classes this season — plenty of smaller-school stalwarts should test the Knights if they are to reach Bowling Green this season.
"You'd like to think a move down would help you a little bit but I tell you, 3A is absolutely loaded with a lot of good football teams," Perry said.
Boyle County shuffled down with LexCath. Back-to-back champion Belfry and Central, which has appeared in four of the past five title games, could lurk in the latter rounds. Corbin, Bell County and Paducah Tilghman are poised to contend.
"There's definitely a lot of good competition, but we're ready just like we would be playing any 4A team," Jones said. "No matter who's lined up against us we're gonna go out and give our best effort."
One key to the success of Perry's system in his first year was standout quarterback Reese Ryan, now at Western Kentucky.
While a starter hasn't been named, Legend Brumbaugh — a transfer from Henry Clay — figures to be the one to assume the unenviable task of replacing Ryan.
Brumbaugh feels up to that challenge, thanks in large part to the bevy of senior weapons at his disposal in the passing game.
"J.J. Ogbogu, Andy Thompson, Chris Thompson and Donnie (Morris)," he listed. "They're really good wide receivers and very athletic. I expect a lot of passing yards out there."
Ogbogu, all-city last year, said the offense would look a bit different without Ryan, but with a powerhouse like Jones in the backfield, spreading the field still should leave the Knights with a host of options. The effort of the four primary receivers, Thompson said, will dictate the success of the offense.
"The effort we give play in and play out, even if we're not getting the ball, to open up another lane for another receiver to catch it or for Jaylen to run through is really a big key to what we do," he said.
Why will Lexington Catholic be successful?
Wide receiver Donnie Morris: "We have a lot of seniors, good leadership on the team and our chemistry is gonna just keep getting better and better each week."