GLASGOW — Cody Lane shielded an oncoming Russellville forward from the ball Thursday night, and the Barren County senior defender showed his strength and athleticism as he kept the Panther at bay while pushing possession back toward midfield.
To the casual fan, it would appear that Lane is a seasoned soccer player, but this is actually Lane's first year playing the sport.
"Learning the rules has been tough," Lane said. "But we're playing hard and playing aggressive. We're just going after the ball and obviously trying to not let the ball get by us."
Barren County(5-2) has already surpassed its win total from 2018, and the Trojans can credit the success in part to an influx of new players over the past two seasons.
No, Barren County hasn't filled up their roster with transfers, but instead, players like Lane have decided to join the team even though some never played soccer before suiting up for the Trojans.
"I wish he would have played all four years," Barren County coach Joe Mercer said of Lane.
"He's been the anchor for our defense. He's learning every game, getting better every game. I mean, he still doesn't even know all the rules, but he's just being a beast. He tracks down every loose ball."
Though they may not have a lengthy soccer career, many of the new Trojans play other varsity sports at the school and are good athletes.
Barren County basketball and football player Aden Nyekan is another one of the new faces on this year's team, but certainly he's a familiar foe now for opponents based on his stellar performance in 2019. The sophomore leads the Trojans with 18 goals, and scored five times against Russellville on Thursday as Barren County picked up its fourth straight win.
The streak marks the first time Barren County has won four games in a row since 2012.
Mercer said Nyekan already had an uncanny ability to create goals, and the Trojans are improving their passing which is leading to more opportunities for Nyekan.
"I like that he's moving more off the ball than he was in the early season, which is creating more of these chances," Mercer said.
Caleb Hester and his brother, Landan, joined the team last season. It was their first time playing soccer, and now both are major contributors to the Trojans. Landan Hester scored his first career goal Thursday against Russellville, and Caleb has three assists this season.
The newcomers have fit in well alongside returning players like Seth Mitchell, who leads the team in assists and has two goals in 2019.
But like the other teams in District 15, Barren County must ultimately get past perennial favorite Glasgow. The Scotties haven't lost a district game since 2014, when they fell to the Trojans.
Barren County threatened to end that streak when the teams met Aug. 15. Glasgow was able to pull ahead in the second half and held on for a 4-2 win.
Mercer said the players must stay sharp and be ready for any challenge moving forward. If they can play as a team, he likes their chances.
"If these boys will stay locked in mentally, we can do some damage and surprise some people," he said.
The Trojans host North Bullitt at 5:30 p.m. Monday.