Dickinson Trinity set to battle defending champ in Class A semifinal rematch
The Dickinson Trinity football team is on a roll that has carried into the postseason.
Outscoring their two playoff opponents by a combined margin of 91-25, the Titans are winners of their last eight contests. Now, they are just one victory shy of earning entry to their first state title game appearance since 2006, dating back to the program's time in Class AA.
Standing in Dickinson Trinity's way is a team that not only has a longer winning streak, but has halted each of the last two Titans campaigns.
No. 2 Hillsboro-Central Valley will host Dickinson Trinity on Saturday, Nov. 3, in a Class A semifinal.
Currently on a 22-game winning streak — tied for third-longest over the past decade amongst Class A schools — the Burros are the defending Class A state champion, who on their way to the crown shut down the Titans 34-0 in a semifinal matchup.
Two years ago, Dickinson Trinity fell to Hillsboro-Central Valley 38-26 in a Class AA Quarterfinal tussle.
"We're just looking at it as, to have chance on Saturday, we have to be mentally tough, play a physical brand of football and be ready to match their aggressiveness and physicality," Titans head coach John Odermann said. "I think we have the athletes to do it, but we have to show up at all 11 positions because right now, they are the kings on top of the hill until someone knocks them off. We're hoping that it's us, but we have to have things come together with 100 percent effort all the time from our guys."
While the team's effort won't be known until after the opening kickoff, Dickinson Trinity knows ahead of time that it'll have an important chess piece that was unavailable during last season's shutout.
Senior wide receiver Kaden Kuntz was out of action last year with a knee injury. This year, Kuntz will walk into Hillsboro at 100 percent health.
"It definitely feels good to be able to play this time against Hillsboro," Kuntz said. "Last year, it was tough sitting on the sidelines knowing that I can't be out there trying to help the team win. It definitely feels good to be able to get back out there this year and play them."
Leading into Saturday's semifinal, Kuntz has been playing some of the best football of his career. The North Dakota State University commit has scored 12 touchdowns in his last three games, including nine scores on the ground.
"I'm sure that (the Burros) are going to account for Kaden, especially after the last three games. They are going to watch film and really see how Kaden has been a difference-maker for us," Odermann said. "They're well-coached and going to have a plan set up to try and contain and shut down Kaden. So we have to be ready to have some other options on the offensive side of the ball outside of Kaden, but we are also going to make sure that Kaden gets his touches."
Dickinson Trinity's options include junior tight end Seth Herner, wide receiver Matthew Stafford, sophomore running back Nathaniel Jilek and senior dual threat quarterback Aric Knopik. Those weapons, along with Kuntz, will look to crack a Burros defense that has not allowed an opponent to score double-figures all season.
On the other side of the ball, Hillsboro-Central Valley features a running attack fueled by junior running back Oscar Benson and senior second team All-State fullback Mark Hastings.
Benson has 345 rushing yards on 36 carries and three touchdowns through two postseason games this season. Hastings reached the end zone twice during a 28-7 quarterfinal victory over Milnor-North Sargent last Saturday.
"They move the ball really well with their run game," Titans senior linebacker Ben Hauck said. "We have to stop their ground game and just work on playing physical."
Hauck is one of seven seniors who hope their battle with the Burros on Saturday isn't the last time they get to put on a Titans football uniform.
"It would be huge," Hauck said. "It'd be just really a lot of hard work paying off and these guys have really tried hard make this happen. If we went to state, it would mean a lot, just hard work paying off."