After Hazen's loss to Heart River on Sept. 14, Bison head coach Rick Philion said the player that took it the hardest was one who never took a snap.
That player is 5-foot-7, 155-pound junior running back Briar Bornemann.
"Some of those early games where we struggled, he took that kind of hard," Philion said. "He knew that him not being able to play made a huge difference. When we lost to Heart River, I think he was one of the most upset kids out there."
Bornemann said having to be on the sidelines while his team was playing was a hard to experience.
"It was tough watching my team go fight without me," Bornemann said. "It's great being back. I love it."
After sitting out the first part of the season, Bornemann is trying to make up for lost time. So far, he's been able to do it with 80 carries for 818 yards and 14 touchdowns. Not to mention that in his first game back, against Southern McLean on Sept. 28, he scored five TDs.
"Coaches have told me I've had to make up time," Bornemann said. "Being out that long, I have to do something."
Hazen senior quarterback Stetson Carr said everyone had to step up, and once Bornemann was able to come back, the team would be that much better.
"We notice how big of an impact he is on the team once he came back," Carr said. "The first couple weeks he was gone, we knew it would be time for everybody else to step it up and it would make the team better that much by the time he did come back.
"He speaks for himself. He does his part on the offense. He's not a selfish player. He put a lot of trust into his linemen."
Not only do Bornemann and Carr have the bond of being teammates, they are cousins. Carr said it's special to step on the field with a family member.
"That's something kind of unique," Carr said. "Not a whole lot of people can do that whether it's a brother or cousin. I think we do have that natural vibe together, which is good."
Philion said Bornemann's athleticism isn't just felt in the offensive backfield, but the defensive backfield at the safety position.
"He goes to 0 to 60 in a heartbeat," Philion said. "I don't know if there are as many kids that are as quick as him."
Bornemann, who has been Hazen's spark plug in the latter half of the season, is ready for the toughest challenge yet -- a state championship. Hazen travels to the Alerus Center in Grand Forks for the Class 1A championship against Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn at 8 a.m. Friday. The game can be seen on NBC.
"It's a crazy feeling," Bornemann said. "We're just on a roll. We're going to keep going and see how far it takes us."
Carr knows making it to the state championship game isn't just special for the players and coaches on the team, but for all of Hazen.
"This is something that hasn't come across since 2001," Carr said, referring to the school's last championship game appearance when it lost the Class 2A title to Dickinson Trinity.
"We had so many teams almost get there. We feel like we weren't just playing for ourselves. We were playing for all those teams in the past. We take pride in bringing happiness to those players and the rest of community."