There were teams that believed they would be playing in Saturday's Class 3A state championship game at Gowans Stadium in Hutchinson.
Then there was Conway Springs.
Belief isn't strong enough to describe the Cardinals' expectations. They demand state titles. Conway Springs has won five of the last nine in 3A.
"If we don't bring home a state championship, we look at it as a disappointment," Conway Springs senior Mason Pauly said.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
So as Conway Springs prepares for its title game matchup with Silver Lake, it prepares to top off one of its most impressive seasons yet.
The Cardinals are unbeaten after 13 games with an average margin of victory of 47 points. Not one opponent has come closer than two scores. A state title has always loomed in the distance, but Conway Springs has yet to let up.
"That's always in the back of our minds," Austin Pauly said. "But we take it one week at a time and focus on one opponent at a time. Now that it's state time, we're ready for it. We're hungry."
Coach Matt Biehler thinks the success comes from work ethic, a staple of Conway Springs football. The program is known for churning out blue-collar players.
"They come to work every day and have great concentration," Biehler said. "We have very good practices because these kids have a good level of focus."
That's common in most Conway Springs teams, but players suspect the intensity has heightened after last season ended on a Hail Mary-type play against Hutchinson Trinity.
No state title, not a successful season. So this year the senior class has made winning a championship their duty.
"It's an honor to be a Cardinal," senior Kayl Barkley said. "Just the tradition itself. There's an expectation you have to live up to every year, and this year we wanted to deliver."
Much of the work was accomplished before this season started.
"You have to use every single day to its full potential," Mason Pauly said. "The day after the season ended last year, we were already in the weight room."
The wins have piled up for the Cardinals, but the focus hasn't faltered. Winning is never taken for granted, but it's not as celebrated as much as other programs. After all, the players feel like it's their job.
"We celebrate for maybe an hour after the game in the parking lot and then we go home and forget about it," junior Cory Misak said. "It's always been like that."
There is an excitement among the players that the team is back in the state title game. But the Cardinals aren't in the business of being satisfied playing in state championship game.
The season is not a success yet.
"We're going to Hutchinson for business," Barkley said. "We're taking it as a business trip and we're going up there to do our business."