In boxing terms, the Dover-Eyota football team is accustomed to "punching above its weight."
The Eagles' last appearance in the state tournament was in 2002, in Class A. Once D-E made the move up to Class AA, they had the misfortune of consistently encountering perennial state powerhouse Caledonia.
Then, three years ago, the Eagles stepped up once again to become one of the smallest schools in Class AAA -- which means that their path to the state tournament usually will require a showdown against Rochester Lourdes.
Last year, that showdown came in the Section 1AAA championship game, and Lourdes shut down the Eagles' high-flying offense 13-0 and went on to claim the state championship.
A lot has changed for Dover-Eyota since that loss.
Head coach Brian Harris stepped down, with former Austin head coach Brett Vesel taking the reins. Also gone are standout wide receivers Jack Studer and Brady Glynn, who have taken their skills to Southwest Minnesota State and UW-Stout, respectively.
But fear not, Dover-Eyota fans. Quarterback Brady Williams is back, and having already committed to play basketball at Mankato State next year, he wants to make his final football season a memorable one.
"It's kind of sad, knowing that I'm going to be done with football," he said. "I just know I have to make the most of the games I have left."
He's set the bar awfully high for himself. Williams threw for 2,565 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior, and it's a safe bet that D-E will lean heavily on him again this year, as Vesel will ask him to run the high school version of the old run-and-shoot offense.
"We're going to be a high-tempo team," Vesel said. "We'll try to go really fast, and we'll always be split out three or four guys wide. It's a spread game."
That system will be unfamiliar to D-E's players, including Williams.
"D-E did not run anything that even resembles this offense last year," Vesel said. "They did some things that worked very well for Brady, but I think this new offense will fit him even better.
"There's probably going to be some hesitation and uncertainty when you bring in a new system, but Brady's done what we've asked him to do. If the people around him continue to get better, I think this change will be pretty positive."
Williams, who will likely be in the shotgun formation on nearly every down, isn't worried.
"It's going to be fun," he said, and added that this year's squad will rely heavily on its offensive line, as was the case last year. "We had great wide receivers last year, but our line was what kept us together. They didn't get the credit they deserved last year, and we are returning quite a few of those guys."
The graduation of Studer and Glynn means Dover-Eyota isn't a popular pick to return to the Section 1AAA championship game, but Williams says people will overlook D-E at their peril.
"Last year we had a projected record of like 3-6, so I think we proved a lot of people wrong," he said. "We just have to play with heart and believe we can win."
While change can be difficult, Williams has nothing but good things to say about what Vesel and his assistants have brought to Dover-Eyota.
"I'm excited about all the energy the new coaching staff is bringing," he said. "They've has done so much work with us this summer with camps and workouts. I think we can be as good as last year, but we have a lot of work to do to get there."
Vesel, who admits that he has had only limited opportunities to watch Williams play before this year, is eager to see what he can do.
"Brady seems to be pretty smart about the game," Vesel said. "He has really good accuracy and seems to have good velocity on the ball at the same time, which is a good combination to have. He's obviously tall, which really is an advantage for quarterbacks, and it seems like he can run pretty well, too. I think his skills will work perfectly with what we want to do."
And who will fill the roles vacated by Glynn and Studer? Vesel didn't name any names.
"We have a couple kids returning who already are starting to stand out," he said. "There should be some guys to throw to, and it will be interesting to see who steps up."