The Pacelli football team entered the 2012 season with modest goals.
Two wins would have been an improvement over each of the past two seasons, but three seemed like a realistic number. Some said they could shoot for a winning season, and a couple others suggested they'd like to make a run at a playoff appearance.
Four games in, even the players are a little surprised at how well the season has gone.
The Vikings, who will play at Brookstone tonight, are undefeated, winning more games already in 2012 than they did in the previous three seasons combined.
"Before the season started, our goal wasn't really to get to 4-0," receiver Jay Dawahare said. "Four wins is just passing our expectations, and it's making the team feel what it's like to win. Now we want it even more."
That's what happens with a start like Pacelli's.
After years of very little success, the Vikings are winning again, and doing so in convincing fashion. In their last three games, the Vikings have outscored opponents by a combined 123-21.
And as the level of success changes, so do the expectations.
"Our goal was just a winning season; now, it's the playoffs," Dawahare said. "And within that, we'd like to go deep into the playoffs, too."
Lineman Brice Morpeth said that the team is more motivated knowing that success in the standings is a greater possibility.
"Going from my sophomore year not winning any games and last year winning one game, it's a lot different," he said. "Now we know we have a chance in every single game. It's a lot easier to come to practice and be motivated knowing every week we can get a win."
And it doesn't matter to them that their opponent's have won just a single game between them. For Pacelli, a win is still a win.
Coach Randy Grace said that it was important not to look at opponents' records for this year, but instead compare this year's results with last year's.
"That's how we can tell the progress we've made," he said. "The team we had last year played the same team we just beat last week (Central-Talbotton) and lost 36-8. This year, we won 35-0. That's a benchmark that we can use as a measuring stick to see where we were and where we're going to be."
Grace noted, however, that his team has a long way to go before it can be considered among the top-tier teams in the league. For one, he said, the Vikings have to close the gap on Brookstone to even be considered a competitive team.
The Cougars (2-2, 0-1) have beaten the Vikings seven consecutive times, including a combined 93-14 in the past two seasons.
"You want to play the best to see how far you've come," Grace said. "The first thing we have to do to be considered a real competitive team is to close the gap with Brookstone a little bit."
That's easier said than done, of course.
Grace praised the Cougars' discipline and experience and noted the team's winning mentality.
"They have a lot of seniors who, through their whole high school career, they've won football games," he said. "That counts for a lot."
Vikings players recognized the strengths of the Brookstone team they will face, many pointing directly at its discipline.
"They've always been a disciplined team," Dawahare said. "If we want to beat them, we're going to have to be disciplined, too."
Quarterback Wyatt Peterson said the same thing.
"I think we can beat them, but we have to be disciplined," he said. "How focused we are and how we practice will play a big part for us on Friday."
Neither players nor coaches are allowing themselves to look past Brookstone, giving little indication of what a win might mean for the program.
Dawahare, in fact, proved he wasn't concerned with what the future may hold.
"We get excited about (the 4-0 start) as a program, but we still look at it as a week-to-week thing," he said. "This week, we have to beat Brookstone. Next week, we've got to beat--whoever. I don't even know."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571