Lumps show up in mashed potatoes and on boxers' faces and, by all accounts, the Old Mill boys soccer team was expecting to take its share early in the season.
Consider: After making it to their first state championship game last season, the No. 4 Patriots lost eight starters to graduation - including five All-Anne Arundel County selections - and had only one player back at the same position.
But lumps? What lumps?
By outworking opponents and quickly developing a new chemistry, the Patriots are not only right back where they were this time last year - again bidding for their first Class 4A state crown - but also working on an 18-0-1 joyride of a season.
"We just came right out of the block with a positive attitude and knew what we wanted to do," said senior captain Tim McMullen. "When we step out on the field, we know that if we're not quite as talented as a team, we can outwork them. We're that confident in our work ethic and with the way we go about doing things."
And now, it's mid-November and the Patriots are still playing, determined to erase the memory of last year's 1-0 state final overtime loss to Kenwood when they take on Sherwood of Montgomery County at 5 p.m. today at UMBC.
"To get over the top, we just have to stay focused," said fellow senior captain Ryan Payne. "Last year, we were happy to get there. On the bus ride home after the state semifinal, we were all going crazy. This year, we were all pretty quiet because we know what we have to do."
At the start of the season, Patriots coach Jeff Martin shuffled his lineup to put his few experienced players in key positions; stressed conditioning to make sure his side could run longer and harder than others, and banked on junior goalkeeper Shawn Fernholz and a number of other newcomers stepping up into full-time varsity roles.
McMullen made a smooth transition from marking back to sweeper; fellow senior captain Alex Buchholz has won ball after ball at center midfield after playing up top last fall, and junior captain Andrew Engle went from scoring one goal last year to enjoying an eight-goal, six-assist breakthrough season.
Only Payne, the team's stopper, stayed put.
Add in Fernholz (a 0.72 goals-against average), freshman forward Andrew Bulls (a team-high 16 points off eight goals and eight assists) and others who have contributed, and the Patriots haven't missed a beat.
Martin said it all starts with his four captains.
"Those guys - you take Tim McMullen, Alex Buchholz and Ryan Payne - and they just work hard and find a way to get it done," he said. "And Andrew, his work rate in practice is unbelievable - he pushes guys to no end."
Old Mill, with a 1-1 tie against Arundel Sept. 22 as the season's only blemish, has had its share of character-building obstacles.
For Fernholz, who replaced second-team All-Metro keeper Tim Carrier, it was the team's first Anne Arundel County game, against No. 11 Severna Park, when he turned away six shots - a number from point blank range - in a 3-1 win.
Then there was a 2-1 win over South River on Oct. 7 when the Seahawks scored in the final minute for a 1-0 lead, only to see Old Mill answer 30 seconds later and go on for the overtime win.
"Every game, it got more and more comfortable," said Fernholz. "There were some bumps here and there, but the team has a thing for coming out and doing what we need to do to win. These guys will not quit."