Hazen and the Dakota Bowl | VideoAlexander Gorney | 11/7/2012
It was a dream many Hazen Bison players had a year ago.
"Last season, I`m not going to lie but we kind of thought we we`re going to the Dakota Bowl," said senior quarterback Stetson Carr.
Last season, Hazen was considered as one of the favorites in Class-A. The team went undefeated all the way to the semi-finals. But it ended in heartbreak, losing by a point to eventual state champion Stanley-Powers Lake.
"Last year that loss hurt a lot. We were coming into the season, we felt we were going to to be a great team. Had a ton of seniors and when we got to that game it came to that point. It felt horrible. I never want that feeling again," said senior offensive and defensive line player Michael Maas.
"We graduated 15 seniors last year and had some talented returning started but weren`t sure about how to fill that in," said coach Rick Philion.
"No one really thought we were going to go anywhere this year. They thought this was going to be a rebuilding year but we didn`t think so," said junior running back and linebacker Hunter Fears.
A team with just six seniors started this season slow, losing 28-8 to Beulah in the Coal Bowl but as this season wore on, the young team meshed and wound up as the top seed from Region 2.
"A lot of youth and our young kids have really stepped up it up. They really bought into what we do. They joined the family," Philion said.
"We came out and practiced hard and proved everybody wrong, showed them what Hazen is really about," Fears said.
"We work our butts off and go at it every single practice. Coaches tell us to give one hundred and ten percent and we do that," said junior running back Dominick Opp.
This year they reached the semi-finals again and it was a familiar foe, undefeated Stanley Powers Lake but this time it was a celebration. Hazen won 14-nothing.
"We came out to play and wanted to shut them down. Defense had to do their job otherwise it would have been a long day for us. I think we got in the playbook and got the job done."
And now within one win of capturing their first state crown since 1996, the players know a victory would mean hoisting a trophy.
"It`d be a huge win for the town, everyone would be really happy." said junior offensive and defensive line player Austin Cieslak.
"It`d be amazing, definitely it`d be the best feeling of my life, It`d be the memory of a lifetime too, you`d never forget it, you`d never forget who you played with," Fears said.