Most high school football fans knew what Frankfort High was losing off last year's 11-3 state semifinalist team - players such as quarterback and UK recruit E.J. Fields and leading rusher Jordan Morgan.
But the Panthers also lost their offensive line, a group of seniors who had played together for several years.
This year the offensive line is new, and while the lineup sometimes changes, a nucleus of Michael Rawlings, Will Smith, Kyle Eskue, Tyler Mattison, Ryan Reed and Jesse Dunmire has helped FHS to an 8-1 record and a district championship.
The Panthers play their final regular-season game at home Friday against Garrard County.
"Coming in we knew up front would be a weakness," FHS coach Craig Foley said. "We haven't had the same lineup every week, but we have a core group of six kids and we've gotten some nice play out of them."
That group has played a key role in the Panthers' success this season. Frankfort has scored 334 points in nine games, an average of just over 37 points per contest.
"I thought we'd step up and do what we do best, run the ball, but we've been passing the ball," said sophomore Ryan Reed. "We've done a lot of good things, and it's going good for us.
"We've had good pass protection, and we're doing pretty good passing," he added. "Friday night we got a pass against Danville that won the game."
Reed has played several positions on the offensive line " guard, tackle and center. Where he plays doesn't matter nearly as much as being on the field.
"I just love to play the game," he said.
But following such an established group as last year's offensive line was a challenge for this year's unit.
"They'd been together for so long and were starting for two years, so there was a lot of pressure," said Mattison, a junior lineman. "Going into the first game I didn't expect us to do as good as we did, and we've been improving since then."
The two seniors in the group, Rawlings and Smith, made the move to the offensive line this year.
Rawlings, who had spent his high school career on the defensive line, plays on both the offensive and defensive lines this year and the biggest adjustment to moving to offense, where he plays left tackle, has been "trying to not false start," he said. "It's up to us to push the football. It's been easier actually than I thought."
Most of Smith's playing time last year was on defense, and he played some tight end on offense.
This season is the first since Smith's eighth-grade year at Second Street that he's played on the offensive line, where he plays right tackle.
"Tight end and tackle are kind of both the same," Smith said, "they're both blocking. And since we usually run the ball anyway, it's just blocking.
"I kind of felt pressure," he added. "Last year the O-line had a lot of experience. We had younger guys coming in and they had to learn. I didn't think we'd do this good, but we work as a team and our O-line coach (Tom Roberts) keeps us working. We play together, and we figure out a way to win."
Some of that success can be attributed to how well the group gets along.
"We're all good friends; we talk a lot," Reed said. "We're all best friends, basically, and we all just love the game."
"That helps with communication," Mattison added.
Eskue, a junior who plays right guard or right tackle, played some at noseguard last year but is happy to be on the offensive side of the ball this season.
"I like the challenge," he said. "It's a battle every snap."
And if there was pressure coming into the season, it came from within.
"The pressure I felt was more from me," Eskue said. "The coaches didn't really put too much pressure on us.
"We're doing as good as we can," he said. "I'm pretty happy with it, but we can always do better."
That sentiment is shared by Dunmire, a freshman who plays right guard.
"We're decent, but we're not at the point we should be," he said. "We should be a lot better. I don't think we've done that great. Our running backs and quarterback have kind of made us look better, but we're working to get better."
That's all the coaching staff can expect.
"We still have a long way to go, but Will Smith sliding down from tight end helped us," Foley said. "It made a big difference.
"We didn't know about Michael because he can be a little slow off the ball," Foley added, "but he's done real well with it."
Moving Smith from tight end to tackle came after the season started, but work on the offensive line began months before that.
"We had an idea going into spring practice," Foley said about replacing the offensive line. "Every one of those kids was out at spring practice. We got some good work in, and we had some idea after that. But we didn't move Will down until the third week of the season, and it's paid big dividends for us."