The Southwestern Warriors head into Friday night's regional championship game as a big-time underdog. And for head coach Jason Foley, that's just fine with him.
The 11-1 Warriors travel to Lexington on Friday evening to square off with an old familiar foe. For the third consecutive season, the 11-1 Frederick Douglass Broncos stand in the way of Southwestern's path to a possible Class 5 A State Championship Game, as these two clubs will battle once again for a coveted regional championship.
In 2019, the Broncos on their home turf, turned away the Warriors in the regional title game by a final score of 44-8.
Last season at Southwestern on a muddy track in a downpour, the Broncos sneaked out of The Reservation by a final score of 21-20 over the Warriors.
On Friday night in the trilogy of this matchup, Frederick Douglass will be playing on 'turf' once again, and the Broncos are going to be a heavy favorite.
Frederick Douglass has been the number-one ranked team in Class 5 A basically the entire season. And, for good reason.
The Broncos are led by wide receiver and UK commit Dane Key, who has registered 41 catches on the season for 678 yards and seven touchdowns. Key's teammate and fellow wide out -- Cameron Dunn -- has 35 receptions on the season for 512 yards and seven TD's. Both guys have speed to burn -- especially on turf -- and are going to possibly cause the Warriors some problems.
Frederick Douglass has gotten it done this season on defense as well, holding opponents to an average of only 132 yards per game, while racking up 425 points in those 12 games, good enough for an average of 35.4 points per contest.
Simply, Southwestern has its work cut out on Friday night, and no one knows that better than coach Foley.
"We know the caliber of a team that we're going to be facing in Frederick Douglass," stated Foley earlier this week. "They're a very good football team with a lot of great athletes. They get a lot of exposure and recognition for guys being recruited, and this and that."
"I will tell you this," added Foley. "When we've been at our best this season -- and I think about different moments that we've played at our best -- I feel like when we're at our best, we can play with anybody."
The Warriors have been at or near their best most of the season, as Southwestern's 11-1 record would indicate. And, let's not forget that lone loss was at Mercer County earlier in the year by a single point -- 23-22.
Southwestern has done it on both sides of the football this season. Running backs Tanner Wright, Giddeon Brainard, Christian Walden, Dylan Bland, and Connor Crisp have rushed for a grand total of 3,076 yards this season and 41 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Warriors have dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in almost every game this season.
Last week, the Warriors defensive line gave Pulaski County and quarterback Drew Polston fits, forcing the Maroons to play behind the chains for almost the entire game. Southwestern limited the PC offense to only 206 total yards of offense in last week's win; just another example of the dominance this team has shown on the defensive side of the football, to go along with an outstanding rushing attack.
"We've had a great year -- no doubt about that," pointed out Foley. "To be able to three-peat for the district championship in our district is tough, because we've had to beat some very good football teams in the playoffs over the last three years."
"I'm proud of our team this year, because these guys have showed a lot of grit, a lot of toughness, they've gotten through adversity throughout the season, and they have played some really good football from start to finish," continued the Southwestern coach. "We definitely are not satisfied. We want to knock down that next door. That's what we're gunning for and what we're striving for. I have been very pleased with our overall performance this season."
To be able to knock down that next door, means the Warriors are going to have to contend and overcome the Broncos' speed on Friday night, especially on the outside.
The Broncos are a quick-strike team, with the likes of Key and Dunn simply running past people. Quarterback Samuel Cornett has completed 126-200 pass attempts for 1,997 yards on the season, and thrown for 22 touchdowns.
Frederick Douglass has blown almost every opponent that has lined up against it off the field this season. This game is going to be strength verses strength, when the Broncos have the football going up a Southwestern defense that is playing lights out.
Foley says that his defensive line up front is playing arguably its best football of the season right now. The Southwestern head coach knows he's the David going against this Goliath on Friday night, and he's OK with that.
If the Warriors play up to their potential, the Warrior head coach says he has no doubt whatsoever his football team can shock the state and bring a regional title back home with a win over Frederick Douglass. Simply, Southwestern has a golden opportunity to 'knock that door down'.
"Speed is always an important factor when it comes to football, and we all know that speed kills," pointed out Foley. "We know that we have to try and negate their big plays, because they (Broncos) live and die off the big play."
"I do feel like we must impose our physicality on them, because that's going to be a way for us to stay in the game," added the Warrior coach. "We need to win the line of scrimmage battle, and we need to be on cue with our assignments. We feel like we have scouted them well and we've got a good plan in place, but we must be fundamental in our assignments."
Kickoff for the Southwestern-Frederick Douglass game is set to get underway in Lexington on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.