Elite teams meet: Top-ranked Hazen hosts No. 2-ranked Killdeer for Region 4 title
The year was 1995.
North Dakota had three football classes and Killdeer claimed its first and only state football championship title in Class B.
Coincidentally, 18 years ago also marked the last time the Cowboys walked off the field as victors against Hazen. Killdeer defeated the Bison 14-7 during the regular season.
Top-ranked Hazen and No. 2-ranked Killdeer play its regular season finale at 6 p.m. today in Hazen with more on the line than just respect -- there's the Class 1A, Region 4 title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"It's a big game and everybody understands that," Killdeer head coach Lou Dobitz said. "It's big for people in the public, because it's the No. 1 versus the No. 2 team. Our kids have been looking forward to it."
Hazen head coach Rick Philion added: "There are playoff implications, home-field advantage and it's two really good football teams. It's finding out what you are really made of just before entering the playoffs. That makes it special."
Though it's a game between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in Class 1A, Killdeer junior quarterback Trenton Rohr said it isn't just about the rankings.
"They are just really numbers and it's going to come down to whoever wants it more and whoever puts more heart into it," he said. "We'll see who wants it more."
Despite the final outcome, the Bison and Cowboys will finish in the top two spots in Region 4 and will automatically have at least one home-playoff game.
After the 1995 season, the Bison went on to win the 1996 Class B title and defeated Killdeer 35-0 during the regular season. In the years to follow, Hazen moved to Class 2A in 1997 and returned to Class 1A after the 2008 season. The Bison has owned the Cowboys defeating their Region 4 opponent the past four years. The closest contest between the two teams was 38-30 in 2010.
"Every year is a different team," Philion said. "We've been fortunate to come out on top the last couple of years, but that can change at any second."
The 2013 season has been a storied season for the Bison and Cowboys. Hazen is looking to defend its Class 1A state title and has been the top-ranked team every week of the Class 1A polls. The Cowboys have been ranked No. 2 for the last three weeks.
Hazen hasn't been bashful after winning a state championship in 2012, posting a 6-0 record and scoring an average of 44.2 points per game, while only giving up 5.5. The Bison are outscoring their opponents by 38.7 points per game.
"We have been getting better," Philion said. "We had some positions early on the season that we had to replace. I think the kids that are in those spots are playing very well right now. We are growing as a team."
Killdeer, which is using a new spread offense, has scored 49 points per game and allowed 8.7. The Cowboys are outscoring their opponents by 40.3 points per game.
Coming into the season, the Cowboys didn't really know how long it would take the offense to get rolling -- little did they know the offense would start rolling right out of the gate.
"It's was easy to get the hang of it," Killdeer junior quarterback/running back Lewis Dobitz said about the team's new spread offense. "Our whole team just caught onto it really fast."
Lou Dobitz feels the game is going to be against two teams with similar characteristics -- lots of speed and a little bit of size.
"We have speed, we have some size -- not a lot of size -- and they are a same way," he said. "They have more returning kids than we do. They are experienced in the state championship and you can't take that away. Our kids have the knowledge and understanding that we do have a good shot and their kids do too. It's going to be a knockdown, drag-out type of game, because the teams are so even matched."