Dawson-Boyd has a lot going its way as a Class A state quarterfinals football game against Browerville approaches.
The Blackjacks have the confidence of the king as the defending state champions, for one. Two, it's going to play a team that runs a veer offense similar to that employed by Mahnomen, the team Dawson-Boyd dispatched in last year's state championship game.
Third, the Blackjacks are coming off a decisive 42-21 win over a fierce rival, Minneota, in the Section 5A championship game last weekend. Minneota hung the only loss on the 10-1 Blackjacks this season and the rematch came at a time when several of its key players were out with, or playing with, injuries.
But what really has the 'Jacks, well, jacked, is the knowledge that they've been there, done that.
"I think the character of a team is revealed when they face adversity," said Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson. "I think they were motivated not so much by the first loss to Minneota, but they were in this situation last year and they know how good it feels to win a game like that. That's great motivation."
The Blackjacks also know the lousy feeling of losing that kind of game, having fallen to Minneota twice in the section final before breaking through last year.
"It was kind of crazy this time," Dawson-Boyd lineman and leader Brandon Schmitt said. "We went in with the mentality, with the drive in you to win and move on to the next round. We put in a lot of effort and worked as a unit."
Browerville (9-2) will bring its veer offense to Big Cat Stadium in Morris on Friday. The last time the Blackjacks faced that offense they smoked Mahnomen 35-20 and hauled the first-place trophy back home.
"We have a pretty good feel for what they do offensively and defensively and we've had a look at their personnel," Larson said. "It's a style of offense we don't see in our conference but I think we know what we're going to get and we're familiar with how to play it."
Schmitt believes the onus might fall on Browerville to figure out how to deal with the Blackjacks, despite the fact that back Garth Ochsendorf is out for the season and top runners and defenders Justin Lee and Mike Anyasike are coping with leg injuries. The Blackjacks are a run-first team, but they took pressure off their running game when quarterback Joey Lee threw for 283 yards and 4 touchdowns against Minneota. Receiver Nathaniel Huot caught 9 balls for 217 yards and 3 scores and he also carried 3 times for 33 yards and a TD.
"We got a good idea what (Browerville) is going to do," Schmitt said. "They run three or four things we have to focus on when they have the ball. With us, I think they're going to have a lot more to focus on because we're always switching things up."
Nerves won't be a problem for a Dawson-Boyd team that is making just its second appearance in the state tournament, Larson said.
"I never got that feeling last year (that the team was fighting nerves)," Larson said. "I thought we did a great job of handling it. They treated (playoff games) like just another football game, even though, deep down, you know it's for more than that. Plus, I think if you enjoy playing the game and you like to compete, you like those situations where there's a little more pressure."