Stillman Valley won a state championship in 2013, but has not returned to the playoffs since then. The Cardinals hope this is the year to get back into postseason play.
"That's one of the big goals is to get back to the playoffs," head coach Mike Lalor said. "That's what makes football so unique is that you're not guaranteed that spot. They've worked awfully hard in the offseason, as I'm sure most people have.That's definitely something that's on their minds."
Nobody on this Stillman Valley roster has played in the playoffs. They know it's going to take a strong effort in a tough Big Northern Conference.
"We just have to keep working hard and getting better," senior lineman Mathieu Morrison said. "I think we're getting ready to do some good stuff this year. We're going to improve on our record from last year."
This is a close-knit group of players who want to make this a special season.
"We're all looking at a brotherhood," senior fullback and linebacker Brady Atchison said. "We're all really close together. We spend a lot of time together."
Lalor enters his 20th season as Stillman Valley's coach. He's won five state championships with the Cardinals. A few things keep bringing the veteran back to the sidelines.
"Number one, I've always just loved the game as a whole," Lalor said. "Number two, this community has given me an awful lot and my family an awful lot. This is a little bit of a way to give something back to the community. I find it enjoyable to be around young people. They bring good energy and make me feel a lot younger than I actually am and that's kind of a good thing too."
The Cardinals kick off the 2017 season at home against North Boone.