Bryan Station football coach Oliver Lucas realizes the enormous task his team faces when it visits defending Class 5A champion Highlands in the first round of the playoffs Friday night.
"The hill is steep for us to climb," Lucas said. "But we welcome the challenge. That's why they build stadiums, so you show up. Otherwise, you'd just phone in the score."
Highlands (9-1) is favored over Bryan Station (6-4) based on the Bluebirds' tradition (17 state titles) and their play in recent weeks. In the past three games Highlands has blanked Lexington Catholic (41-0), Madison Central (46-0) and defending 3A champ Central (28-0).
Bryan Station senior running back Patrick Cornett knows most fans are expecting another wipeout on Friday.
"People think the game's going to be something like 58-6, or that we're not even going to get on the board, or that (Highlands') second team is going to be in by the second quarter," Cornett said.
"We don't need to listen to all that foolishness."
Cornett, who has rushed for 1,312 yards and 15 touchdowns, said for the Defenders to pull the upset, "Everybody's got to maintain focus, and everybody's got to keep their composure."
Lucas described Highlands as having the four S's — size, strength, speed and smarts.
Roy Philon, Bryan Station's senior defensive end/running back, added a "D" to the Bluebirds' profile.
"They're very disciplined," he said. "We've got to match that. We've got to play to our full potential, and we've got to make big plays."
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Philon is capable of big plays. He'll need to make them on defense, considering Highlands, led by quarterback Tony Guidugli, is averaging 46 points a game.
Philon is one of the top defensive linemen in the state. He has scholarship offers from Minnesota and Tennessee. He has also heard from Kentucky, Louisville and Western Kentucky.
Lucas expects Oklahoma to make a run at Philon, too.
Philon said he's waiting for an offer from UK. "That's where I'd like to go, but I'm looking to see whoever gives me the best scholarship, more playing time... wherever the best place for me is."
That decision will come later. Philon's only concern right now is helping Bryan Station continue its turnaround.
The Defenders, assured of their first winning record since 2000, are seeking their first playoff victory since 1999.
"We've got to stay on top of our game against Highlands," Philon said. "Everybody's got to stay focused on their assignments and on our common goal."
Lucas, in his third year at Bryan Station, recognizes Highlands as "a historic program," and that his Defenders are "underdogs in everything we do.
"This is unfamiliar territory for us. But we've got a team with outstanding camaraderie and chemistry, and I know our kids will show up and give it all they've got."