Most of the players on the Madison Southern roster have never advanced this deep into the playoffs before.

And they've never taken the field against a state powerhouse program with the season on the line.

A few Eagles, however, have been in that situation.

Two years ago, Dane Jackson and seven other Southern seniors — who were then sophomores — faced Covington Catholic in the Class 5A state title game.

"Once you are there, you know what you have to do," Jackson said. "You can take that leadership and show some of the younger guys what to do."

Jackson and those seniors will get a chance to show what they learned from that experience.

The Eagles (7-5) are set for a rematch of that championship game.

Southern and the Colonels (12-0) will meet in the region championship game today in Park Hills.

The winner advances to the Class 5A state semifinal to face an opponent determined by the RPI of the remaining teams — Frederick Douglass, Southwestern, South Oldham, Bowling Green, Owensboro and Fairdale.

"They are ready. They've been studying. We've had extra meetings," Southern coach Jon Clark said. "I feel really good about where we are."

The Eagles are well-aware of the challenge they face — especially on the road.

The Colonels have won seven state championships (2017, 2006, 1997, 1994, 1993, 1988 and 1987). They've also won 41 of their past 42 games, with the only loss coming in last year's Class 5A title game to South Warren.

Covington Catholic beat Southern, 49-13, in the state championship game two years ago at Kroger Field in Lexington.

"They are going to lose again. No one wins forever," Clark said. "Things change. Someone is going to beat them and I like the team we are taking up there."

To prepare for a trip up to Northern Kentucky where the Eagles will likely face a hostile crowd, the coaching staff changed things up.

The team practiced on Wednesday night under the lights at EKU's Roy Kidd Stadium.

"We wanted to put them in a big environment," Clark said. "We've got eight freshman and a sophomore playing. So, we were trying to taking the wow factor off the table."

To get another shot at Covington Catholic, the Eagles had to go on the road last week and beat a team they had lost to earlier in the season.

Southern claimed its fourth district title in the past five years with a 24-21 win over East Jessamine in Nicholasville.

In the first meeting of the season, the Jaguars racked up 413 yards on the ground in a 49-35 win.

Last week, the Eagles limited the top Class 5A rushing team to 238 yards and forced several big turnovers.

"We were more prepared. That was probably the best week of practice we've had," Jackson said. "Kids were watching  more film than we ever have. We just wanted it more than they did."

A.J. Jones had 88 yards rushing and a touchdown. Tobias Storm was 8-of-10 for 125 yards and a touchdown. Cameron Holbrook had a TD run and Jonah Farnstorm had a TD catch.

Baylor Willis also had a field goal and was 3-for-3 on extra-point attempts.

"We had a great gameplanm" Clark said. "We are playing our best ball right now."

The Eagles will probably have to come up with their best performance of the season to beat Covington Catholic.

The Colonels have allowed more than nine points only once this season and have out-scored their opponents 473-76. With the exception of a 39-38 win over Lexington Catholic in September, CovCath hasn't really been challenged, yet.

Junior quarterback Caleb Jacob has thrown for 28 touchdowns and 2,347 yards on the season with only seven interceptions. He also has five rushing TDs.

Michael Mayer has 13 touchdown catches, while Ethan Reardon has eight TD catches.

Daniel Felix has a team-best 10 rushing TDs, but eight other players have at least one touchdown on the ground for the Colonels.

The Eagles know they are the underdogs, but they are confident they are up for the challenge.

"We believe. We are prepared," Jackson said.

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