Dwayne Garrick knew what he was up against when he became head football coach at Williston-Elko three years ago.
"They were coming off back-to-back-to-back 3-8 seasons," he said. "I knew we'd have to change the mentality a little bit."
Garrick got a better understanding after his first team went 7-5 with a playoff win. It wasn't that the Blue Devils were lacking athletes.
"The football part was easy," he said. "The hard part was keeping them eligible and staying out of trouble and getting them to come out. You could tell they were athletes."
With that raw talent he saw, Garrick took the Blue Devils to the Class A Division II state championship game a year ago only to lose to Scott's Branch. In 2009, the same Williston-Elko team marched through the regular season with a perfect record and finished off a campaign of revenge with a state championship victory over Scott's Branch. It was the school's first football state title since 1980 and the first undefeated season at 14-0 since 1979.
Garrick said the hardest part was living up the expectations of a blowout victory every week.
"They did a good job of showing up and playing every time," he said of his players. "I think some people were just waiting for us to have a letdown. We didn't in the regular season."
Williston-Elko's first letdown came in its final game. The Blue Devils started slowly in the state title game and fell behind by eight points at halftime.
Garrick, who said he changed the team's offense to a spread formation in the first half because injuries to skill players made running their usual wishbone offense too risky, decided to move back into the wishbone for the second half. Tailback Dexter Staley, playing with an injured shoulder, scored three second-half touchdowns out of the wishbone to spark the comeback.
Garrick said the fact that his team won the title with home-grown players made the win even sweeter.
"The nucleus of this year's football team started with me as freshmen," Garrick said. "We're very fortunate that we've got some very good players. We're not going to have people moving in here. We have to play with the guys we have."