Scott Brewer has been having a hard time sleeping in the last few weeks. For him, that means basketball season has arrived.
With the Spiders having played in three state title games during the last five seasons - winning the 3A state championship in 2007 - the Concord coach knows the expectations surrounding his team are high.
"Around here, we get too result-oriented sometimes," said Brewer. "Our kids focus on that more than the journey, and maybe we don't improve as much as we should."
But that wasn't the case last year.
"At the start of the season, nobody would've thought this team would be playing for a state championship," said Brewer.
But that's exactly where the Spiders (27-6) ended up, losing to Rocky Mount in the 3A title game. Brewer said that, without taking anything away from that team, he thought they overachieved in making it that far.
"We were very good and we knew we were very good, but to make the state championship you have to be great," he said. "We just peaked at the right time; we played well in the playoffs, made free throws, we executed, and next thing we know we're playing for a state title."
Last year's Spiders team showed strong will in the playoffs, coming back from a 19-point third-quarter deficit to Harding and from 12 points down to West Rowan in the fourth quarter.
"We had gut checks, but we had the toughness to make big shots and win," said Brewer.
Before losing in the title game, the Spiders had won 14 games in a row, once again taking the South Piedmont Conference title.
But now the focus is on this year.
"We got most people back," said senior guard Will Vanderburg. "We have a good shot at a state championship."
The Spiders return all but two players, losing forward Jalen Cannady and guard Griffin Templeton. Brewer has high hopes for his team.
"We have a good chance to be just as good as last year," he said.
The Spiders will be led by shooting guard Marquise Moore, the South Piedmont Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore, as he returns for his fourth year of varsity play after averaging 15 points and seven rebounds per game.
He'll get some help from Vanderburg, who saw significant playing time and started the last 12 games of the season in Templeton's place after he broke his wrist. Vanderburg, a solid shooter, averaged eight points per game last season.
Junior guard Kendall Knorr, who averaged eight points per game and led the team in assists last year, has been on the varsity squad all three years and should play a key role. Darren Black, who started the second half of last season at point guard as a freshman, and Patrick Jenkins, who led team in charges, should also contribute.
Junior Kriston Beasley, the Spiders' JV MVP last season, and freshman Connor Burchfield, a lanky 6-foot-1 wing who has Brewer excited by his potential, are newcomers.
Xavier Stywall, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, will be relied on to be the team's post man, a position where Concord doesn't have much depth. Stywall averaged five points and five rebounds per game as a part-time starter last year, splitting time with Cannady.
In a team made up mostly of guards, Stywall's post defense and rebounding will be needed, but Brewer said he isn't worried about the Spiders' lack of size
"Our best team may be all guards," he said. "So many people are caught up on numbers because they listen to announcers saying, 'This guy's a one, two, three or four,' ... but you have to play the best players on the court and then figure out how they can best win."
Jenkins said he's been impressed with what he's seen from the team in practice.
"We're just as good, if not better, because we've all been playing together for a pretty long time," he said.
Brewer said he hopes coming up short of a state title last season will motivate the team to work harder.
"I think they all want a ring," said Brewer, who won a state title at Central Cabarrus in 2000.
Brewer, who's entering his 25th season of coaching, wants the Spiders to focus and not get complacent after their success last year.
"There'll be somebody bigger, stronger, faster than Concord High School," said Brewer. "There'll be more talented teams, but the key is to be a better basketball team. To beat those teams we'll have to play together."
His players know that and have set their goals high for the season ahead.
"We want to be better than last year," said Stywall. "We want to win it all."