"It kind of came out of nowhere," head coach Todd Dunn said. "At the beginning of the season, if anybody would've said we were going to end up where we did, I would've bet a lot of money on that."
Lawson went untouched after that conference loss until an appearance in the Edward Jones Dome in late November.
The Cardinals carried an eight-game win streak into the program's third state championship, but ran into a buzz saw in the title.
Lamar completed a 14-1 season with a 42-point shutout of the Cardinals.
"I remember the loss," senior Connor Hill said. "It hurt. It hurt a little."
A repeat trip to the dome in 2014 to erase those memories won't come easy for Lawson.
They lost 16 seniors off a squad that led the 2013 Cardinals to a 12-3 record, while the Class of 2015 only suits up eight players on this year's team.
"It is pretty rough," senior Bryce Morris said. "But the thing is, that's what we do as seniors. We overcome very hard obstacles."
"Fortunately, eight guys that have a lot of experience," Dunn said of his upperclassman. "We've had teams that have been really successful with small senior classes. We've had teams that weren't as successful with a big senior class, so I don't think that's the recipe. I think it's all how they mesh together."
And the team should mesh together well across the offensive and defensive lines.
Dunn says they'll be experienced up front, led by Hill, a 6-foot-3, 265 pound tackle and nose guard.
"He brings great athleticism, and kind of that never quit mentality where, if he's rushing the passer, he's not going to give up until he gets there."
Despite a trip to St. Louis in 2013, the Cardinals expect to be overlooked.
"People are going to question us again," Hill said. "Like they did last year. But that's just extra drive for us."
And after reaching the doorstep of a title for the first time in six years, Lawson's ready to finish the job in 2014.
"We got there, and that was all exciting," Dunn said, "but we came up one short. So we want to take that next step. "
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