(STANBERRY, Mo.) Dan Collins has been plugging away for 21 years in Stanberry, delivering five district titles in his 19 years as head coach, but could never never seem to reach that elusive 8-man state championship game.
"We've had a lot of good teams come through here that never got the opportunity to go down there," Collins said. "I'm glad these guys got the chance to do it."
Other than a hiccup against Worth County, the Bulldogs have shown they are tired of waiting, and have proven themselves as 8-man elite in 2012.
"We finally accomplished what we were talking about all year long," quarterback Isaac Heddinger said. "I'm glad we did it, and we're ready to go down there and try to come back with a win."
"This was their number one goal," Collins said. "You have a lot of teams talk it, but these guys actually have done what they've got to do to get through it, so here's our chance now."
But to complete the job, they face the toughest out in 8-man this year in North Andrew.
Led by first year head coach Jonathan Schoonover, a solid contrast to Collins extended tenure in northwest Missouri.
The Bulldog coach says he remembers coaching against Schoonover when he was in Mound City's backfield.
"Great running back, played hard, obviously had something," Collins said. "He knows what's going on. He does a great job with film study and has his kids prepared. I'm sure they'll be ready for what we have to offer."
The town of Stanberry is certainly ready, as the Bulldogs received their own mini-Thanksgiving Day Parade greeting as they packed up for St. Louis this morning.
"The town's ecstatic," running back Nathan Luke said. "They're 100-percent behind us. We've never made it this far, so they're pumped and ready to go."
It's been a long time coming for Collins and company, but they're confident no job is too big for this group of kids.
"We have a lot of coaches that have been down there prior to us that have given us advice," Collins said. "They've told us what to do, what not to do."
"Thanksgiving, it's a great holiday, but there's no better way to spend it than in St. Louis with your team trying to win a state title," Luke said.
Stanberry faces North Andrew at 9:30 Friday morning in the Edward Jones Dome for the 8-man State Championship.