DERBY, Kan. (KSNW) — The Derby Panthers have made the trip to state seven years in a row.

They brought home a title three straight years— 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Winning is a part of the culture, so of course, they went for the four-peat. But the 2021 6-A state title game was a wake-up call. Derby lost to Blue Valley Northwest 41-21.

That experience is now being looked at as motivation. Once the game was over, the Panther’s attention shifted to the upcoming season.

“Game one, we have to finish game one and the kids have done a good job,” said head coach Brandon Clark. “We’ve talked about finishing workouts and finishing practice hard because last year we did not finish. We came up short.”

For some seniors, the loss felt like a blessing rather than a curse.

“Honestly, I am thankful we lost last year. It gives us something to fight for,” explained senior receiver and corner Nathan Keener.

The Panthers are now fighting to return to state for the eighth consecutive year. They’ve returned a significant amount of veteran leaders, including star running back and Notre Dame commit Dylan Edwards.

“We all said we wanted to be back, and a week after, we were back lifting with the team, just hungry for that state championship again,” said Edwards.

Derby may not be the biggest team out there, but according to Keener, they can be the fastest team that gives 110% every play.

The Panthers open their season at home against Manhattan, the first matchup between the teams since 2019.