Ron Massey's A.L. Brown team is always expected to be in contention for a conference title.
That's no different this year.
The Wonders were the favorites to take the South Piedmont Conference crown coming into the season, but North Carolina-bound running back Travis Riley's knee injury during the first week of the season and the team's loss to Thomasville had some wondering if the defending SPC champs could repeat.
But Massey doesn't really worry about what other people say.
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"That doesn't affect me or this team," he said. "Our expectations are what we make for ourselves. We expect to be good - that's always our expectation."
Massey said this year's version of the Wonders has a lot of potential, maybe even more than some of the other teams he's coached during his 11-year tenure in Kannapolis.
"It's just a matter of getting it all together and everybody healthy," he said.
Kannapolis has also shown some resiliency this season, coming back from a 17-point deficit against Kings Mountain two weeks ago. That game was bitter-sweet for Massey.
"We didn't come out and play well that first half, and that's a little frustrating," he said. "But it's still early in the season, and hopefully we'll just improve each week."
A.L. Brown, which is coming off a 45-14 win over Jay M. Robinson, is averaging 31 points per game, but they've also given up nearly 20 points per game. Massey said his team, which is 4-1 (1-0 in the SPC), could be doing better.
Massey has been disappointed at times by inconsistency and turnovers, which have hurt the Wonders at times.
"We're hoping we'll take a little better care of the football," said Massey.
But he's also seen some bright spots in this team, including the way second-year starting quarterback Martel Campbell and all-conference wide receiver Teven Jones have played.
Defensively, Massey has been impressed by his defensive line, which has been led by junior tackle Jericho Rivers, and by the surprising start senior Evans White has had at linebacker.
Although Massey admits that losing Riley early in the season was a big hit for his squad, he's glad he has talented players - such as RJ Gill, Demetrius Jackson, Xavier Stanback and Damien Washington - to fill in for the star player.
"Thankfully, we have enough skilled kids that can also cause problems if we get them the ball in the right places," said Massey, who would not comment on whether Riley will return this season.
Massey said it's too early to tell how the SPC will shape up in the upcoming weeks, explaining that coaches are still making adjustments to their teams. There's only one thing Massey is sure of:
"The conference overall is going to be competitive," he said. "Everybody knows everybody, since we're all here together."
But that doesn't mean Massey and his players don't have big goals.
Jones, the team's leading receiver, has high expectation for the Wonders.
"I don't want to sound cocky, but we don't plan on losing another game," he said.
The team's goals are to win the conference, to get a No. 1 seed in the state playoffs and to hopefully compete for another state title.
Massey said the team will focus on each SPC opponent at a time, but his Wonders can't help but look forwards to the team's regular season finale against archrival Concord.
"I miss the bell real bad," said White. "We want it back again."
White's goals go beyond the SPC; he wants his Wonders to bring another state championship home.
"We play like Kannapolis - we practice hard and we play hard," said White. "We expect to go to states and win it."