When Lexington Catholic football coach Bill Letton felt pain in his chest a couple of months ago, he thought he had pulled a muscle while working a youth camp.
Instead, doctors discovered an 80-percent blockage in his heart, and put in a stent to fix it. Since then Letton has lost about 30 pounds and is feeling better than he has in years.
"I didn't realize I felt bad until I started feeling good," he said. "I've got a lot more energy now."
Perfect timing because Letton needs that energy to keep up with one of the youngest and friskiest Lexington Catholic teams in a long time.
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The Knights have only a handful of seniors, so it will depend heavily on players who have seen scant varsity action.
"What they lack in experience they'll make up for in enthusiasm and confidence," Letton said. "We preach and preach that we don't care how old you are, if you're one of the 11 that steps on the field, you know what we expect."
Nate Letton, the coach's son and one of the team's few veterans, agreed.
"This is a mature team despite age. Very talented," the senior linebacker/tight end said. "The young guys are real enthusiastic and ready to go."
Kyle Bolin is one of those young guys. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound highly touted sophomore will run the offense.
"We've had some great quarterbacks that have walked into their role as sophomores, going back to Ryan Neff, Jacob Doss, Justin Burke, Nic Ward," Letton said.
"Today's football is driven so much by media, Web sites, blogs, chat rooms and tweets, but Kyle realizes none of that is important. It's what he does on the field that counts."
Bolin is surrounded by playmakers, including receivers Adam Bush, Luke Fish and the Nash triplets (Alex, Casey and Nick); tight ends Letton and Anthony Kersey; and running backs Billy Jack Brown, Mike Lynch, James Maddox, Konnor Vasilko, Amoh Kumengsia and Marcelis Logan.
Only four of those 13 are seniors.
The offensive line will be anchored by senior Will Whitman and junior Kurt Wilhelmus. Oscar Melendez, Trey Lankford and Corey Mesmer will lend their muscle up front.
The Knights' defense returns Letton at middle linebacker, Brown in the secondary and Trey Mattingly on the line. Whitman and Wilhelmus will be in the defensive line line rotation.
Jordan Artrip and Casey Lebrun will play linebacker, and Adam Wachs will provide leadership at safety. Sophomores Kersey and Alex Nash will fill key roles in the secondary.
If Lexington Catholic is to win another state title to go with its 2005 and '07 championships, it knows the primary competition will come from district rival Boyle County and region rival Bell County.
Boyle County won the state title last year, and Bell County won it in 2008.
"I'd be surprised if the state champ doesn't come out of this region again," Letton said.
Brown hopes it's the Knights.
"Every year our goal is to win a state championship, and anything less is a disappointment," he said. "We shoot for high goals here."
As usual, the Knights face a challenging schedule. Last year their five losses were to the Class 6A champ St. Xavier), 6A runner-up Trinity, 4A champ Boyle County (twice) and 4A runner-up Lone Oak.
Those four teams are on the schedule again.
How will Lexington Catholic's players react in big games? Letton expects their youth to serve them well.
"This group seems to have a level of energy and enthusiasm that's not been here for a while," he said. "I'm glad I've got the energy to keep up with them."