(STANBERRY, Mo.) After 21 years in the 8-man coaching ranks, Dan collins has seen what it takes to win a championship.
"There's a lot of things that've got to go your way," he said. "You've got to stay injury-free, you've got to have some games that maybe you catch a break or two in. All those things fell into place for us last year."
Stanberry finally broke through the barrier in 2012, reaching and capturing their first title in school history with a 56-38 win over North Andrew.
But it didn't take long after hoisting the trophy for the Bulldogs to start thinking about how they'll reload.
"As soon as that game was over, we knew we lost a good group last year and we were going to have to getting ourself prepared for this season."
"I realized we were losing a lot of seniors that were really inspirational for me," sophomore OL/DL Shelby McMillen said. "Looking up to them guys, we're all going to have to work that much harder."
The team sports just four seniors this year including running back Nathan Luke, who played a key role in the team's state championship win. He says the team is ready to embrace their new status as top dogs.
"Right now, we have a target on our back," he said. "We're going to all season just because we won last year. Everybody's going to be wanting to get us."
There will be a few key holes on defense and the offensive line, along with replacing reid osborn under center. The bulldogs could look to Isaac Heddinger to do after he spent time in the spot last year.
But a big drop off doesn't look to be in the picture.
"We're going to be a younger group as an entire unit on the field," Collins said. "It's going to be an interesting season but i wouldn't say we're any further ahead or we're any further behind."
"Doing what we did last year, it's big shoes to fill," Luke added. "It's going to be tough to fill them but i think we've got a good shot at making them back."
Stanberry opens the season August 30th at North Nodaway.