Paynesville overcame a heavy snowfall in the Section 5AA championship against Holdingford in order to reach the Class AA state tournament.
Now, the Bulldogs will have to endure some thunder.
Entering its state quarterfinal game against Barnesville (10-1) on Friday at 7 p.m. in Alexandria, Paynesville knows exactly what it will face: a non-stop attack on the ground from the Trojans.
"We've never seen them before and we've never played them," Bulldogs head coach Max Meagher said. "It's definitely a heavy run-oriented offense. They're speedy, they're big and they're athletic."
A Three-headed Monster is the focal point of the Barnesville rushing attack that rushed for over 2,700 yards on the season—more than 245 per game.
The most explosive athlete for the Bulldogs to contain will be senior running back Brady Tweeton, who averaged nearly 10 yards per carry for 787 yards and 17 touchdowns in six games after returning from injury mid-season.
The 1B and 1C to Tweeton's 1A, then, are Brady Martz and Jackson Wahl, who combined for 1,559 yards and 18 touchdowns on 222 carries.
"We'll have to do our best to contain the run game and be disciplined at the line of scrimmage," Meagher said. "There's a lot of misdirection going on with the offense. You have to stay home on counters and reverses."
But, of course...
"That's all easier said than done," Meagher said.
If Barnesville is the thunder of Friday night's matchup, though, then Paynesville is certainly the lightning.
Featuring a 1,500-yard threat in Zach Schroeder as part of an offensive averaging 39.2 points per game this season, the Bulldogs offense is certainly reciprocating the film-room jitters.
"We're playing good football right now," Meagher said. "The way we played against Holdingford, that was about as pristine of a game as we can have. It comes down to taking care of the football and not turning it over.
"You're playing on a bit bigger stage, but it's the same game and fundamentals don't change. You have to get off blocks and make tackles on defense, and block, stay on your feet on offense."
Barnesville's lone loss on the season came against Hawley in Week 7, which it avenged in the Section 8AA final with a 29-22 win over the Nuggets.
Paynesville, meanwhile, has a pair of losses on the season, but to two of the state's elite teams. The Bulldogs fell 42-6 in Week 7 to Pierz, which is one of the favorites in the Class AAA state tournament, and was tripped up 51-8 in their season opener against BOLD, which was the top-ranked QRF team in Class A.
"We learned a lot of things from those losses and definitely got better for it," Meagher said. "Now, I think we absolutely belong in the conversation with competing with any of these teams in the state."