Odd or even?
That's the question printed on the back of Lexington Catholic's football T-shirts this pre-season. It refers to the Knights' recent playoff successes and failures in odd and even years.
In 2005 and 2007, they won state championships.
In 2006 and 2008, they didn't reach the title game.
"The question is whether we're going to give an odd-number accounting of ourselves and go all the way, or give an even-number accounting and fall short this season," Coach Bill Letton said.
Senior lineman Loyd Amos is confident which way things will go for Lexington Catholic. "Definitely odd, big-time odd," he said. "The main thing we've got this year is a lot of heart."
The Knights return seven starters on offense and four on defense, with a deep roster filling the holes.
Nic Ward, who will start at quarterback for the third season in a row, has thrown for 4,225 yards and 47 touchdowns. Letton expects him to show even more improvement in stretching the field.
John Sam Steele, another senior quarterback who's more of a true pocket passer, will take some snaps, too.
"Nic and John Sam are both hard workers, both are leaders, and both have earned the opportunity to play," Letton said.
Greg Raglin, who was injured at the start of last season but came on to lead the Knights in rushing with 853 yards and 16 TDs, will be the primary ground weapon.
"Greg's probably been too much shake-and-bake in the past, so we've really worked with him on picking his spot, making his cut and going with it," Letton said.
Patrick Hager, Konner Vasilko, Vincent Foright and Lee Ramsey will get carries, too.
Lexington Catholic's receiving corps was nearly wiped out by graduation, but Ryne Least and Billy Jack Brown will step in as pass-catchers after playing only defense last year.
Aaron Price, a 6-foot-3 junior, will be key receiver, too.
The tight end slot will be shared by Bryce Andrews and Nate Letton. "I don't know if we've got the best tight end in the state, but I think we've got the best pair," Coach Letton said.
Up front, Amos returns, along with Mac Stevens. They, along with Mike Patton, have been slowed by injuries in the pre-season.
Defensive veterans include linebacker Letton, linemen Bill Jacoby and Andrew Gathy, and Least in the secondary.
Ramsey will play a lot of safety, with Brown and Mark Plymale at the corners.
The Knights are exceptionally deep at linebacker, led by Letton, Benton Hupman, Michael Cornett, Stephen Jennes and Zach Mitchell.
"We'll play as many as seven guys in there at linebacker if we can figure out the rotation," Letton said.
Hupman will also take over place-kicking duties.
Letton is an old-school guy who says that defense wins championships, and he thinks this team has what it takes to stop people.
But he also hopes his offense shows more of a "big-play, quick-strike" capability, something that was lacking last year.
He's looking for Raglin, Ramsey, Least and Brown to provide that spark.
Ward sees it happening.
"Our offensive line will be a big part of it," he said. "And we've got some guys who'll get out there and catch the ball. Ryne Least has shown some good things in practice. And when Aaron Price comes ready to play, he's a big target."
As Lexington Catholic has developed into a state power over the last decade, its schedule has gotten progressively tougher.
This season's lineup of opponents is downright scary. It includes 6A superpowers St. Xavier and Trinity, 6A Madison Central, 5A traditional power Covington Catholic and up-and-comer Whitley County, 4A district rival Boyle County, and 1A contender Lexington Christian.
"The benefit is you're playing the best competition the state's got to offer," Letton said. "The downside is you can't afford to lose your focus. You can't have any mental letdowns."
Amos said he knows the Knights' road will be bumpy, "but it'll be fun, too. It'll show us where we stand against the best in the state, not just in our class. It'll show us how good we can be, how good we aspire to be, and how good we want to be."