Area football roundup: Hazen looks to slay another undefeated opponent in Bowman County
On Friday, Sept. 21, the Hazen football team held a two-score lead during the fourth quarter on the road against region rival Beulah before a touchdown-run from Miners senior running back Kaleb McGraw trimmed the Bison advantage to six.
Sweating through the tense, final moments, Hazen was able to hang on for a 22-16 victory, planting Beulah with its first loss of the season. Bison junior running back Tyson Van Inwagen had 209 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries, taking the lead role in a classic edition of the Coal Bowl.
"Anytime that you win in the region, it's always good. Of course, having it be in the annual Coal Bowl, it's always a better feeling, it's a big one for the kids," Bison head coach Bret Johnsrud said. "The communities definitely get involved and into it, so it's definitely a good feeling. The nice thing was that we saw our kids actually come out and execute our plan, do it the best they could and fortunately, it was good enough to win."
The Bison did not have much time to celebrate the victory as Hazen quickly began preparing for its next match-up against an undefeated region opponent, the Bowman County Bulldogs.
Sitting a 5-0 this season, the Bulldogs boasts Region 4's premier offensive attack, averaging a tick under 50 points per game. Their attack is centered around senior running back Adam Powell, who scored five touchdowns in a 53-7 victory over Heart River last week.
"Bowman County is a very good team and they are very experienced this year, most of their guys played a lot last year," Johnsrud said. "They're athletic and they have good size and good speed, so it's definitely going to be a tough for us. ... The big thing is that we're the underdog again and our kids have kind of taken that to heart a little bit. They want to come out and try and prove something. Whether or not that happens, that's the way they are approaching it."
Johnsrud points to the controlling the line of scrimmage as major key to a possible victory, that including winning the point of attack against a hard-nosed Bulldogs defense. At 11.4 points per game, Bowman County's defense is third in the region in points allowed, just 0.4 points behind top-ranked Dickinson Trinity.
"I know it's going to be a battle," Johnsrud said. "It's not going to be something where they are going to walk onto the field and let us win or vice versa. It should be a very good game."
Beach eyes the postseason with two home games remaining
Lording over every play and the intricate details within it during practice, men and women who carry the title of head coach stress execution with a singular focus in mind: to be ready for the next opponent.
Cliche as it may sound, taking it one day at a time is a common approach amongst coaches who want to make sure their athletes don't stray too far away from the team's upcoming challenge.
However, for longtime Beach football head coach Mike Zier, having the long-term goal in mind can be just as valuable to a team's progression as can executing in short term.
On Friday, Sept. 21, the Buccaneers defeated Mott-Regent-New England 42-26 for their second victory of the season. With two weeks remaining, the win catapulted Beach to a tie with Central McLean for the final Region 5 playoff slot.
"Absolutely, that's a motivator and you have to use that," Zier said. "We have two good opponents left and may be between one of us three to get that fourth and final playoff spot and the good thing is we play each other down the stretch. The teams kind of control their own destiny, so to speak."
After falling to the Cougars the week before, Grant County-Flasher will be the Buccaneers' next opponent this Friday. Beach then has a date with Central McLean in the final game of the regular season. Both of the Buccaneers' final two games will be at home, but Zier doesn't take solace in that fact.
"One of the most overrated things in high school sports, especially in 9-man, is home-field advantage," Zier said. "It's not like we are packing the Dome and have deafening crowds. It's good, don't get me wrong, I love being at home, but the bottom line is the best team that night is going to get a win no matter where you play it."
Grant County-Flasher runs multiple tight, offensive formations under head coach Jamie Krenz. Preparing for looks out of the wishbone, wing-t and spread, Zier expects that Krenz and the rest of his staff will walk into Beach with a prepared football team at their disposal.
"Their strength is their coaching staff. Their coaching staff has been together for a long time," Zier said. "Coach Krenz and I have coached against each other going on 13 years, if not longer and he does a great job of maximizing what his kids can do."
Two weeks from now, Beach could be on its way to a second consecutive postseason appearance, something that may have seemed unrealistic not too long ago after dropping four of its first five games by an average of 42 points. In their last two games of that stretch against region powers New Salem-Glen Ullin and Shiloh Christian, the Buccaneers were outscored 116-14.
But through the rough beginning of their 2018 campaign, the players' spirits never wavered.
"Their demeanor has been fine," Beach head coach Mike Zier said. "No one likes losing and when you start the season 1-4, kids are asking questions, coaches are asking question and we are all looking for answers. Winning helps that and we came together against Mott and the bottom line is that we have to come together again. It's hard to believe we started 1-4, but we still have a shot at the playoffs."