PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - The UPIKE Bears hosted Media Day Tuesday morning to preview the upcoming football season.
The Bears are coming off of a 6-5 record last year and went 4-2 in conference.
The schedule for the Bears doesn't get any easier this year.
UPIKE takes on five opponents in the NAIA preseason top 25, as well as NCAA Division I-AA opponent Murray State to open the season.
Despite the tough schedule, the Bears believe they have what it takes to make a run at the conference title again.
"Definitely have challenges ahead of us," said UPIKE Football Head Coach Al Holland, Jr. "Probably the toughest schedule that we've had here in my 10 years being here at the University of Pikeville."
"We deserve to play for the conference again," said junior wide receiver Arites Clark. "I feel like we have the guys around us to make that run again."
"We obviously play in the toughest division in NAIA football hands down," said senior quarterback Bowen Smith. "I think we have five teams ranked in the top 25 in the ending polls last year. That in itself is going to be a challenge, but the expectations never change."
Plenty of mountain products will suit up again for the Bears this season, with 26 players having eastern Kentucky ties on their roster.
Some of those players say that they come into school familiar with each other on the field as well as off of it with their similar backgrounds.
"They've got kinda the same story I do - overlooked as a high schooler," said freshman running back Jayden Neace. "You know, nobody really pays attention to the mountains, but that's what makes it all the better when we come together."
"I've competed against those guys my whole life, so I know what they're about," said senior running back Xondre Willis. "I enjoy having them as teammates. That's just fun, you know being hometown and still being able to play around here."
The Bears go on the road to start their 2019 campaign as they travel to western Kentucky to take on the Murray State Racers on August 29th at 7 p.m.