Throughout a superb regular season, the Stewartville Tigers never let themselves dream, even just a little. They had a goal to reach and a process to get there. Looking ahead was a path to potential failure.

Stewartville reached that objective Saturday with a 43-13 victory over Annandale at U.S. Bank Stadium to win the state championship in the Tigers' first year as a Class 3A program. Last year, Stewartville played in Class 4A.

"We knew we had a chance to go and do something special this year," Stewartville coach Garrett Mueller said. "The big thing for us was focusing on the process and what it took to get us to this point. We knew we weren't going to go win a state championship Day One. So it was about building for that opportunity."

Quarterback Ayden Helder said: "We talked about how every game was going to be a steppingstone. Every single week, we tried to use like a stair to keep building."

The postseason had already begun when the Tigers started thinking about where they might end up.

"I think it was after we got into the playoff and won the section that we started saying, 'Let's go win it all,' " senior receiver Henry Tschetter said.

Stewartville (14-0) spent most of the season atop the Class 3A rankings. It won in dominant fashion, shutting out six opponents while giving up just 63 total points.

That continued Saturday. Stewartville led 14-7 at halftime, then poured it on Annandale (12-1) after halftime, scoring 29 straight points. Carter Miller finished with 157 yards of total offense, 144 on the ground, and scored three touchdowns. Stewartville had 471 yards of total offense, 265 rushing and 206 passing.

"Very few high school football players get the opportunity to win a state championship," Helder said. "We're lucky we have a lot of really good football players at a lot of positions."