Lafayette did not have a winning season in football from 1987 through 2001.
Those dismal days seem long ago now that the Generals have posted a winning record 11 years in a row, the longest current streak among Lexington's public schools.
Eric Shaw was a Generals' assistant during that string of success, so as he takes over as their fourth head coach since 2007, he knows the lay of the land at Lafayette.
"A great foundation has been built here," he said. "The kids and coaches know what's expected: to play hard and to win."
Never miss a local story.
The Generals start the season with only a handful of returning starters, but Shaw said that's misleading.
"We're not young in experience. A lot of these guys didn't start, but they got in games because we play young fellows here at Lafayette to get them ready.
"And there's talent here."
Kylan Nelson, a 5-foot-11 senior speedster, is at the top of the talent chart. He had 2,285 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns last year, and did it with dazzling style. His numbers included 1,110 yards and 11 TDs rushing.
"I'll play a little bit everywhere — running back, slot, return man, cornerback — all the good stuff," he said with a smile.
Shaw described Nelson, the only returning starter on offense, "as a great athlete and great asset to this team, and we're going to try to capitalize on his ability."
Malik Robinson and Mason Alstatt are also expected to be productive at running back.
Junior Johnny Fangmeyer and sophomore Clay Bolin are battling for the starting quarterback spot. Fangmeyer got a few snaps as a backup last year. Bolin's brother Kyle was an all-state QB at Lexington Catholic last season.
Shaw said Fangmeyer and Bolin have "very similar skill sets. It'll just depend on who's more consistent."
Dontavion "Lucky" Jackson, a 6-3 junior, Nelson, Alstatt, Devon Quincy and Michael Serafini will be among the receivers. "Some great targets for our quarterbacks to throw to," Shaw said.
The rebuilt offensive line will include 6-7, 250-pound sophomore Landon Young, who has already committed to UK, and Logan Kendrick.
The defensive line will be anchored by Nathaniel Edwards, Nick Albright and Kahlil Dunn.
Lafayette graduated a terrific trio of linebackers in Justin Carr, Drew Horseman and T.J. Broadus. Stepping in to those roles will be Robinson, Reagan Schlegel, Nathan Gillespie and Evan Shaw.
The secondary will be the strength of the defense, with Nelson, Alstatt, Toryan Whiting, Javonte Butler and Malik McWilliams.
Nelson thinks people are doubting the Generals because they lost so many starters, "but trust me, we'll come out and play some football."
Shaw said his team's biggest question mark is its overall mental toughness because of its youth.
"That's something we've got to work on," Serafini said. "But we're putting in the work, and the leadership we have helps a lot."
The Generals realize they must be mentally tough from the get-go because their first two games are against Class 6A power Scott County and defending 3A champ Central.
"Knowing how tough it's going to be has made us work that much harder," Fangmeyer said.
Shaw said he hopes the early season challenges teach his team "how to play at a high level."
Nelson was more blunt when asked what the Generals can learn by starting off against Scott County and Central: "How to take a punch, and how to give it back," he said.
Aug. 23 x-Scott County, 8:30 p.m.
Aug. 30 CENTRAL
Sept. 6 at Lexington Catholic
Sept. 13 BOONE COUNTY
Sept. 20 PAUL DUNBAR
Sept. 27 at Henry Clay
Oct. 4 at Bryan Station
Oct. 11 CLARK COUNTY
Oct. 18 at Madison Central
Oct. 25 y-at Tates Creek
Note: Games at 7:30 p.m. unless noted. Home games in capital letters.
x-Central Kentucky Kickoff Classic at Tates Creek
y-Roy Walton Bowl
Coach: Eric Shaw (first year)
Last year: 7-4 (lost to Male in first round of 6A playoffs)
Top players: Kylan Nelson (RB/DB/WR/KR), Toryan Whiting (DB), Mason Alstatt (DB/HB), Nick Albright (DL), Reagan Schlegel (LB), Nathaniel Edwards (DT), Landon Young (OL/DL), Nathan Gillespie (LB/K), Johnny Fangmeyer (QB), Clay Bolin (QB), Javonte Butler (DB), Dontavion Jackson (WR/S), Malik Robinson (RB/LB), Michael Serafini (WR), Devon Quincy (S/WR).