(COLUMBIA, Mo.) It's taken 42 years, but Stanberry is finally back in the state championship game.
A four point win over Meadville Thursday allows the Bulldogs to relax and take in the situation at the team's 45-minute practice at Mizzou Arena Friday afternoon before Saturday's Class 1 State Championship.
"This extra day is really nice," senior Jacob Heddinger said after the team's shootaround. "You just have to sit back, relax and enjoy it. If we would have had to play back-to-back days, there wouldn't have been a chance to take a break, let it sink in and enjoy the moment."
The trip is even more meaningful for head coach Nick Groomer.
A Stanberry native, Groomer started his coaching career at Nodaway-Holt, but after three seasons in Graham, he moved on to his alma mater.
"It's every coach's goal," Groomer said of coaching in his home town. "To even go home...I'm so proud just to have the chance to do it."
"He's always talking about how he wished his senior year could have been like this year, and how it's special for him, too. It makes everything a lot better," Heddinger said.
Groomer found success in his first two seasons at Stanberry, but couldn't get past the district championship.
A 12-13 campaign in 2010-11 ended in a 49-34 loss to Jefferson. The next season the Bulldogs went 20-6, but once again fell to Jefferson in the district title game 53-42.
But in year three he has Stanberry one win away from becoming state champions.
The same success that the school had in the 8-man State Championship earlier this fall.
"I know the boys had their football success, and it's kind of led into this," Groomer said. "It means a lot to the school being down here once (for football), and then making it this far. Getting into the post season was great, but making it here has meant a lot to the whole school and the whole town."
The Bulldogs will play for their first Class 1 Boys State Championship since 1971 Saturday evening against Eminence.