"It's unreal," Dawson said. "You get out there and it's a lot bigger than you think."
The Maryville senior is hoping to roll that experience into one more run to the state championship.
"We know where we've been, and what we've done. And we know we have experience, and that we can get the job done."
Over the last two years, the Spoofhounds have gone from a solid program to a powerhouse.
Along with back-to-back state titles in 2012 and 2013, only 12 high schools in the country have an active streak longer than Maryville's 30 consecutive wins.
Now with seven returning starters on offense and six on defense, they're not expecting to slow down.
"We feel our depth is very good right now, and we feel our experience is good. It's kind of another year, a new role and each team develops its new identity, but being able to return some very good players is important," head coach Matt Webb said.
The 'Hounds did lose some major pieces from 2013's championship run, including all-state performers like Jackson Morrison on the offensive line, Adam Thompson on the defensive line and quarterback-defensive back combo Trent Nally.
That leaves an opening for the team's third different quarterback in three years. Webb is reluctant to name a starter now, but whoever it is will be aided by the Class Three Offensive Player of the Year from 2013, Brody McMahon.
"I've had two great seasons I'm happy with," McMahon said. "I'd like to play like that, try to help the team out as much as I can."
The ultimate goal is to experience the dome and that big stage in St. Louis once again, but the defending state champs know that they can't afford to over look any opponent along the way -- that starts with Lawson in week one.
"Every week is an important game," Webb said. "And every week we know that we're circled as the team to beat, so it's exciting."