Donovan Moss didn't appreciate opponents taking Cox Mill as a "joke" in their inaugural season last year.
He knew that had to stop.
"We worked hard so that if teams came here sleeping on us we could catch them off guard," said Moss.
For a team that won only one game last season, Cox Mill has shown a lot of improvement. The team has won five games, including Friday's 20-13 upset of Concord, and have a likely shot of making the playoffs for the first time in school history.
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Moss credits the team's improvement to their maturation, but he admits that there have been other factors involved.
"Everybody wants it more," he said. "We've also worked hard in practice and that's translating to the games."
Moss admits that he's enjoyed the wins his Chargers (5-3, 2-2 in the South Piedmont Conference) have pulled off this year, but his season highlight was catching his first interception in Cox Mill's conference opener against Mount Pleasant.
Moss has been huge in the Chargers' improvement, as he's made big plays like that for the defense all season.
The middle linebacker is one of the top tacklers on the team and leads the Chargers in fumble recoveries with two.
But just as important, Moss has been Cox Mill's defensive leader even before the school opened its doors last fall.
He was the one motivating his teammates while the Chargers were still working out at Northwest Cabarrus' weight room and is the one that makes the calls for his defense during games.
Chargers coach Greg Neuendorf said Moss has the characteristics that every coach wants in a leader.
"Donovan is the kind of person who you can point to and say 'this is what we want on a day-in and day-out basis," said Neuendorf. "If you don't have that, your team is kind of lost - if they can't look to somebody to lead them."
Neuendorf explained that Moss shows the way for his teammates by example.
"He's not a huge 'rah, rah' guy, but he's always working his tail off, getting good grades, doing everything we want," said Neuendorf.
Moss's hard work doesn't stop when practice ends. He takes copies of his team's opponents' film home to better prepare for games.
"You have to be able to teach yourself, especially if you want to play at the next level," the 17-year-old said. "The coach can't always hold your hand along the way."
Moss hopes to do just that and earn a scholarship to play collegiately.
Although he said a couple of coaches have gotten in touch with him, he's still sending out tapes to schools to get his name out.
"Im sending them everywhere - from D-I to D-III," he said. "I just want to play."
Moss, who is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, said that even though he's improved since last year, he's still not satisfied.
"I think I've played good, but I want to be great," he said. "I have a lot of improvements to make."
Neuendorf said Moss's defensive unit has definitely improved since last year, when they gave up an average of 36 points per game.
"Two years in the same system, kids understand where they're going and understand what we're trying to do," said Neuendorf..
He added the Chargers' defense, which is allowing 23 points per game and less than 14 a game in their wins, has had its good and bad games, and have some improving to do.
"It's still a very inexperienced group," said Neuendorf. "We only start three seniors on defense."
Moss said he wants to finish out the season - and his high school career - strong and win the a few more games to guarantee the Chargers a playoff spot.
"For a two-year school that would be an awesome feat," he said. "We want to do that and keep going until we can."