Aside from the state title, much of the motivation will stem from the long road from a 3-9 finish last year to becoming one of the most improved programs in Class 1A football.

One year made a world of difference for the White Castle Bulldogs.

After a 3-9 finish last year that ended in a 12-6 postseason heartbreaker against Merryville, the Bulldogs knew they had something to prove.

White Castle has achieved that goal early and often this season, which has culminated in a 9-3 record and the first appearance since 2010 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/Louisiana High School Athletic Association Class 1A Championship game.

The next step for the No. 3-seeded Bulldogs is a battle against No. 4 seed Oak Grove (10-3) in action at noon Saturday at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Oak Grove enters the fray after a 41-0 rout over Logansport in the Class 1A semifinals and a 53-6 drubbing over East Beauregard in the quarterfinals.

Plenty of celebration will predate the trip to New Orleans, but it's another day at work for the players once they arrive in the Crescent City.

"It's huge for them knowing their playing far from home, not sleeping in their own beds that night and understanding the honor of playing in that game," WCHS coach Aaron Meyer said. "In the end, they have to play the same forty-eight minutes of football they've played all year, and they have to keep it in that perspective and do it the way they've done it every week this year if they want to come out the winner."

Aside from the state title, much of the motivation will stem from the long road from a 3-9 finish last year to becoming one of the most improved programs in Class 1A football.

It was nothing spectacular that brought the team from an also-ran in 2018 to the state title game this year, Meyer said.

Instead, it came to old-fashioned work ethic.

"They worked very hard during the offseason and they were able to improve their game in the process," he said. "Things jelled a little more, and the respect was mutual between the younger and older players, who paid it forward."

The confidence also built along the way after they entered the season, even as many doubted the Bulldogs would have even a smidgen of a chance to reach the tile game.

It proved to be the motivating factor, Meyer said.

"The season has been as much psychological as physical," he said. "Every week, they wanted to prove that they deserved and belonged, and they played with that chip on their shoulders all during the season."

It does not mean WCHS will breeze its way to the state title.

"To stop them, we have to focus on yourself, and do the best you possibly can," Meyer said. "If you focus on one particular player or one particular blitz, it reflects on a lack of preparation on your part.

"We need to put our best forward and focus on every aspect of the game, and that will give us our best chance," he said.

As much glitz and spotlight can distract a team, the Bulldogs must not buy into the pregame hype, Meyer said.

"Oak Grove is going to bring everything in its arsenal, but ultimately White Castle controls White Castle's destiny," he said. "Oak Grove is going to bring everything but the kitchen sink.

"If our players remember the goal and stay with it, we can come home with the championship," Meyer said. "There's no reason to hold back."