Aidan Leffler knows about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Inserted as Indianapolis Roncalli's starting quarterback as a freshman, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Leffler saw his club take some lumps with a 3-7 mark in 2018.
After improving to 7-6 and capturing a sectional crown a year later, the Royals reached the top of the mountain last November by claiming the Class 4A state title with a 13-1 mark.
Now, a seasoned veteran, the senior signal caller Leffler is well aware making it back to the winner's circle will not be an easy task with an 18-game winning streak and the top-ranking in Class 4A.
On the way to a 6-0 record, the Royals have downed two-time defending Class 3A state champion and No. 9 (Class 4A) Indianapolis Bishop Chatard (28-21) and No. 2 (Class 3A) Brebeuf Jesuit (28-10).
To this point, Leffler has completed 76-of-117 passes for 997 yards with 13 touchdowns and rambled 54 times for 264 yards and five scores.
"Going into the year, we knew we were going to have a target on our back," explained Leffler. "Returning a lot of guys on both sides of the ball is always a huge confidence boost. I think my mindset, along with the whole team, coming into the year was making sure that we get better every week.
"We cannot afford to stay on a plateau and not get better. When you begin to get comfortable, that is when you get stung. We just knew we had to keep our edge. The guys' last year set the standard to never get satisfied, and this year's team is carrying that over to this year."
Since throwing for 442 yards with four touchdowns and running for 345 yards and four scores in his first season, Leffler has become even more dangerous with arm and legs.
After going 161-of-274 for 1,816 yards with 15 touchdowns and rushing for 596 yards and 14 scores as a sophomore, he went 125-of-193 for 1,714 yards with 24 touchdowns and ran for 746 yards and 17 scores a year ago.
He believes staying focused and sharp with his teammates during the winter has made all the difference.
"(Roncalli head) Coach (John) Rodenberg's off-season running and weight program has really paid dividends for the entire team," Leffler said. "Not only did we work hard in the weight room, the receivers and I continued to work on routes in the off-season.
"We would go to a field that was open about three times a week, even back in February, when it was freezing cold outside. If the weather was horrible then we would go to somebody's house and talk about route concepts and run through the different coverages. The receivers and I also worked with my passing instructor, Patrick Higgins, at least once a week in the off-season, which helped us tremendously."
Although this is only Rodenberg's second year as the helm, he has seen Leffler mature into a leader.
"With Aidan being a four-year starter, he has earned his leadership role within our program," said Rodenberg, who also won state championships in Ohio and Kentucky. "His work ethic sets him apart and has given his leadership merit with his teammates."
Getting the chance to work with a seasoned and successful leader like Coach Rodenberg has been a plus for Leffler.
"The first week he came to school last year, I remember him talking about what we will be doing in the summer," Leffler recalled. "During a regular year throughout the whole month of June, we do not touch a ball. He conditions us and we lift four days a week. Last year, we did not have to do as much conditioning because of Covid and the certain restrictions and practice times. This year with Covid being much more relaxed, we went through the full June workouts, and those practices were brutal. This is how he prepared us.
"He wants to see how far we can go and push ourselves during the sprints, and then he wants us to go even one step further. Just building that mentality through the month of June helped the team become reenergized. He pushes us to strive for perfection and recognize we always need to get better as football players."
Instead of pondering a returning trip to Lucas Oil Stadium, his main concern is Friday's contest at No. 10 (Class 4A) Bloomington North.
"I think keeping a level head and just not taking any game lightly has helped us each week," Leffler said. "Maintaining our edge is huge for us to keep getting better. Coach Rodenberg said we need to be peaking going into the playoffs. Just keep getting better is a key for us.
"There is not much of a difference between last year's group of guys and this year's group. I would say last year's group of guys was focused on last year and this year we are focused on this year. Each year we are working to achieve the same goal. It is a completely new year and last year is in the past. We are focused on the now and taking games one week at a time."
Heading into the homestretch of his high school career, Leffler has never taken anything for granted.
"It is an honor to play for Roncalli," said Leffler, who has received an offer from Columbia University. "Everyone knows that we represent the teams that came before us, and it is awesome to see alumni come to our games and support us. (Linebackers) Coach (Chris) Belch said we do not play 'at' Roncalli; we play 'for' Roncalli.
"It is awesome to see all the little kids giving us high fives along the fence line and playing in the back of the end zone. I know how cool it is because I was one of those little kids looking up to the football players. Roncalli football is one big family."
Leffler and company hope to have something to celebrate once again this coming Thanksgiving weekend.