(ROSENDALE, Mo.) Heading into North Andrew's first state championship appearance since 2003, Cardinal head coach Jonathan Schoonover is keeping things simple.
"Just focus on the goals that we've set, and focus on their assignment, and do their assignment and not worry about the guy beside them," Schoonover said. "You do your job and the guy beside you will do his job, and things will go smooth."
But the players know there is more at stake when they take the field at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on Friday.
"There's probably going to be a little nerves in it, but it's just another game," North Andrew running back Zach Officer said. "Maybe a little bigger stakes there, but just treat it like it's another game. Go out and do our jobs."
Despite an undefeated run through the semifinals averaging over 56 points per game, the team, along with their rookie head coach, are still learning.
"We still have a lot to learn," Schoonover said. "We still have a lot to learn about football, a lot to learn about up front. But these guys have impressed me from day one."
This Cardinal squad featuring 14 upper classmen is a tight-knit group. They work closely on the field, but even more off it making their journey to St. Louis even more meaningful.
"The guys on the team, they're some of my best friends," Officer said. "I wouldn't trade them for anyone. It's just kind of a connection we've got there."
"There wouldn't be a better group of guys I'd want to go with and do this whole thing," Cardinal running back Quayde Bauman said. "It's not like we're just a football team. We're friends."
But North Andrew has their work cut out for them against a Stanberry team that only suffered one loss in a tough 275 Conference.
Schoonover, a Mound City native, recalls playing against Dan Collins bunch during his high school days, and what they bring to the table.
"Coach Collins is a great coach," Schoonover said. "He's been a great coach from Stanberry since day one. They were always a tough team when I was in high school, always a hard-hitting team. He obviously teaches intensity, and they execute very well."
On the eve of his first state title appearance as a first year head coach, Schoonover's making sure his team does not get too high, or too low, on any play against the Bulldogs.
"In big games like this, there are a lot of big plays, and you can't let a big play get you down, or mess up the next play," Schoonover said. "We focus and preach that the most important play is the next play with the kids, and I think they've really adapted to that and done a good job of having that be their focus."
Kickoff between North Andrew and Stanberry from St. Louis is 9:30 Friday morning.
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