The sting of last season's early playoff ousting at the hands of Simon Kenton continues to resonate with several members of the Lafayette football team.
Their confidence boost from turning a 3-8 season in 2013 into an 8-4 campaign was dampened, returning all-state lineman Landon Young said. But the Generals have rallied around the defeat.
"That loss against Simon Kenton is gonna make us even better this year," Young, a UK commit, said.
Senior cornerback Javarus Blair echoed that sentiment.
"I feel like we just lost focus at the end of the season," Blair said. "It left kind of a bitter taste in our mouth and it really propelled us this summer working toward this season."
Junior wide receiver Quinten Brown said the playoff defeat "was a growing experience. We're taking that and learning from it."
Said junior quarterback Walker Wood: "They watched a lot of film and we made a lot of mistakes as players and coaches in that game. That's just what it is. Just clean up the mistakes."
Young is confident about the Generals' prospects this season.
"We're not going to fall short this time," he said.
One place where Lafayette certainly doesn't fall short is its offensive line, which in addition to Young boasts five-star junior Jedrick Wills and fellow returning juniors Will Bischoff and Alex Simpson. Collectively they stand nearly 20 feet tall and weigh more than half a ton.
"I believe our o-line's the best in the state to be honest with you," said Wills, who has scholarship offers from several college programs, including UK.
Simpson said it's kind of nice towering over everyone. He said his bench-press numbers are right up there with those of Young and Wills.
Wood, a dual-threat junior, was the only Class 6A quarterback to appear in the top 15 in rushing and passing last season. He downplayed those stats, saying he couldn't have achieved them without the muscle up front.
"They're a great bunch of kids," said Wood, who has an offer from Louisville. "We just worked together."
More than winning games, building a family mentality and culture that helps young men prepare for the real world means something to third-year head coach Eric Shaw. He sees that manifesting itself in this junior-dominant group.
"All of them want the same thing," Shaw said. "All of them want to be good and no one is jealous of the other if they're getting attention first."
With several players receiving star ratings and other accolades, Shaw said they have done a terrific job of managing the spotlight.
"They love each other and all that extra outside stuff doesn't mean anything," he said. "If they don't fight together and take care of business together, being ranked 13th in the country as an individual doesn't mean anything."
Why will Lafayette be successful?
■ Sophomore linebacker Ean Shaw: "Because we work the hardest. ... We work our butts off every day."
■ Senior defensive back and Wofford commit Mason Alstatt: "It's the heart and hard work that we put in every day. We're bringing back a lot of players so we're coming with a lot of intensity."
■ Coach Eric Shaw: "It's all about us getting better each week. If we go out and compete and get better, wins and losses will take care of themselves."