Garrard took a 17-1-1 records into its regular-season finale Thursday, along with a 13-game winning streak.
"When we look back and see that at one point we were leading the state, we can feel pretty good about that," senior midfielder Corey Horn said.
Ranked No. 22 in state
Garrard is already gaining notice for its success. The Lions cracked the statewide coaches' poll for the first time this week, earning the No. 22 ranking.
"I think people are starting to respect the program a little more," senior midfielder Jacob Denny said.
Garrard's offense is certainly commanding respect. The Lions scored 91 goals in their 19 regular-season games, an average of 5.06 per game.
Their offensive leader is Denny, who leads the state with 37 goals - he has a double-digit lead over the state's No. 2 scorer - and is his school's all-time scoring leader with 66 goals. He scored four goals Saturday in Garrard's win at Danville.
"The last two years, his skills have really geared up," coach John Martin said.
"When it comes down to it, he's going to get the ball," Horn said. "That's who I look for and who most of my passes go to."
Horn is an effective passer who ranks second in the state in assists with 17 but has been first for much of the season. And Horn can hold his own as a scorer; he is tied for 10th in goals with 16.
"He's always looking for the open man, and when he's open, I look for him," Denny said.
Another senior midfielder, Micah Wade, also plays a major role in starting Garrard's attack.
It works best, Martin said, when a number of offensive players push their way toward the goal.
"I've seen a transformation in this team being able to play together in a pack," he said.
"It's just good teamwork, and when you get around the goal, you finish," Denny said.
Playing together since middle school
Most of the seven seniors on Garrard's team have played together since their middle school days. Some of them, such as Denny and Horn, have played much longer.
"It's the only thing I really love to play," Horn said.
The two of them have started since their freshman year, which was also Martin's first year as coach. But Martin said very little of the program's success is his doing, saying his players have made it happen.
"They get 99 percent of the credit for that," he said.
Garrard didn't become an offensive juggernaut this season. The Lions were the regular-season state leader in scoring last year with 97 goals, and they also led the state in goals allowed with a mere seven before giving up three more in the postseason.
They won their first 13 games and went 15-0-1 before being bounced by Madison Southern in the first round of the district tournament.
"Last year we had a good season, and and we didn't lose too many of our players," Denny said. "We pretty much had a full squad already."
This year the Lions won four of their first five games and tied the other before a 2-1 loss to Berea on Sept. 4, then began a winning streak in which they have averaged five goals per game and have allowed a total of only five, with no more than in any single game.
The goals-allowed numbers - 11 on the season - indicate that Garrard is getting it done on defense as well as on offense.
"We've got a top-10 keeper in the state, and the defense keeps a lot of the pressure off him," Martin said.
Goalkeeper has nine shutouts
Garrard's defense is led by seniors Will Stevens, Malcolm Smith and Anthony Henderson. Behind them, goalkeeper Jacob Lawwill's nine shutouts place him as one of the state's top netminders.
Now the pressure will be on Garrard to do what it could not do last year: make a deep postseason run.
"When we lost in the district last year, we knew right then next year was going to be our year," Horn said.
Garrard avenged that loss late last month with a 1-0 victory over Southern in the finals of the Pulaski Cup, which Martin said was one of the high points of the season.
Realignment means the Lions will see a new group of teams in district play this year. They have the top seed in the new-look 29th District, followed by Marion County, Boyle County and Danville.
Garrard's first game in the eight-team district tourney is Monday against Harrodsburg.
"This will probably be the most memorable season for us ... and to end it on a good note would be nice," Denny said.
"They do not realize, as of now, what they've accomplished so far," Martin said. "It will not sink in, probably until they're out of high school."