The A.L. Brown football team is used to winning and winning often. The Wonders have won 108 games in the last 10 years under head coach Ron Massey, an average of nearly 11 wins per season. In that span, A.L. Brown has also had seven consecutive double-digit win seasons.
"It's a huge challenge for our staff and team to be the favorite every year and continue to live up to that," said Massey, who starts his 11th season Friday night. "We have high expectations, and no team wants to be that team that doesn't play up to standards and has a bad season. I think that is a big motivation."
The 2010 squad looks very good on paper as all-everything senior tailback, Travis Riley, is back after rushing for 1,923 yards and 34 touchdowns as a junior. Riley, who committed to North Carolina, has been the most accomplished back since two-time state player of the year Nick Maddox, who went on to star at Florida State, came through Kannapolis.
"(Travis) is going to have every defense designed to stop him and coming after him," said Massey. "But he is a great back. He will have to meet the challenge. If you want to be a blue chip, then you have to prove in on the field."
Riley will have help in the backfield from junior Xavier Stanback (340 yards, four touchdowns) and senior Derek Stroud, who both played big roles last year.
Senior quarterback Martel Campbell is also back to help orchestrate the offense and get the ball to the key players. Campbell, who is in his second-year as the starter, is strong and faster and understands the offense a lot better.
That knowledge should allow Campbell to get the ball more often to senior wideouts, Tevin Jones and Dillon Robinson. Sophomore Keon Johnson has also a breakout year.
The offensive line should also be in good shape with Steven Jackson, Daniel McFaddin and Sheldon Saddler back to lead a veteran group.
While the offense should produce close to the 34 points per game they averaged in 2009, the defense also appears to be just as the unit the held teams to only 16 points per contest.
The Wonder defensive line is strong with seniors Mark Goodjohn, Dominique Phifer and junior, Gerald Holt (6-1, 265) back to help control the line.
The linebacking corps is probably the biggest question mark, but Massey has faith in seniors Andrew Leslie and Ryan Blackmon to step up and lead a group that will also include converted defensive back Quin Gill.
The defensive backfield should be the strength of the unit as junior Kaleel Hollis leads the group, after starting as just a sophomore last year. Seniors (Tevin) Jones, J.P. Lott, Shequez Weaks and junior Damien Washington are the main candidates to get significant time.
For a lot of teams, just winning a conference title is enough, for A.L. Brown winning 10 or 11 games is the usual. After winning the SPC and going to the 3rd round of the 3A playoffs in 2009, more is expected from a team with experience and talent. But the team still has a lot to prove on the field.
"Experience in high school football means a lot and we have a lot of experience and talent but every year is different," said Massey."
A.L. Brown can begin showing exactly how good they are Friday, when the Wonders host Statesville.