Hazen has been the benchmark by which Class A football has been measured for the past two seasons.
Winners of two straight state championships, it appears the Bison are poised for a run at their third-consecutive title after a 14-6 win over Class AA rival Beulah on Friday.
The victory handed Hazen its fourth Coal Bowl title in the past six seasons.
MDN file photo
Connor Doll rushed for 90 yards on 19 carries from his quarterback position last Friday against Beulah. Hazen defeated the Miners 14-6, making it four Bison victories over Beulah in the last six seasons.
"Anytime you can get a win against Beulah no matter whether its Class A or Class AA we feel pretty good coming out of it," 12-year Hazen coach Rick Philion said. "They have quite a few kids coming back from last year's team, so to beat them brings us a lot of confidence to start the season."
It's now been 720 days since the Bison lost a football game. They've won 23 straight.
Hazen senior quarterback Connor Doll was the offensive catalyst against the Miners, rushing for 90 yards on 19 carries. He also provided the game's winning touchdown with an 82-yard pass to senior Hunter Steffen.
Both of Hazen's touchdowns came in the first half. Wyatt Carr scored the first with a three-yard scamper in the opening frame, one of five rushing attempts for the 6-foot-3 sophomore.
The Bison graduated 15 seniors last spring including 2013 senior player of the year Austin Cieslak leaving several open positions in need of filling.
Philion liked the look of his new team against Beulah.
"Our new players adjusted to the speed of the game very well," he said. "It's a big jump from playing junior varsity to the varsity level. I think there are a few things we still need to clean up, but overall, I thought we performed just fine."
Now 1-0, the Bison square off against Region 4 opponent Southern McLean (0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in Hazen.
The Roughriders limped to a 1-6 record last season including a 49-6 loss to the Bison but with a host of returning starters on both sides of the ball, Southern McLean will pose a stern challenge, Philion said.
"I expect them to be one of the teams competing for a playoff spot," Philion said. "They return most of their team and a lot of valuable game experience. They're maturing, they're getting better and they've got some kids that are looking to win."
Youthful M-L-S hopeful of Region 6 title defense
The Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood volleyball team made history in 2013, making its first appearance in the Class B state tournament after a dramatic five-set victory over Bishop Ryan in the Region 6 championship match.
The Mavericks are aiming for a successful region-title defense this season, but it won't be easy. They're without several key players from a year ago.
"It's no secret that we graduated a majority of the team last season," first-year M-L-S coach Jaime Adams said. "We have one returning starter from last year, and that's Callie Carlson. So everyone else on the team is getting new varsity experience.
"I wouldn't say off the bat that we're the favorite to defend. However, we have a lot of talent still coming up, and by the end of the season, we're certainly going to be in the mix for that region title."
M-L-S got off to a good start Tuesday, defeating Burke County 3-1 in its season opener.
Carlson finished with team-highs in blocks (4) and service aces (4), while finishing second in kills (12). Senior outside hitter Hailee Depute finished with 13 kills to lead all competitors.
Adams admits there is room for improvement in her team, even during Tuesday's victory, but she's noticed some positives, as well.
"We don't have any 6-footers, but we certainly have some height. That was a pleasant surprise for me to see as a coach," Adams said. "We should be decent at the net. Our blocking ability should be solid, and that still needs time to develop. But at least we have the potential to get above the net."
The Mavericks welcome Bottineau for a match today at 7 p.m.
Velva aims for bounce back in Region 3 opener
Shortly after last Thursday's Copper Bowl loss to Bishop Ryan, Velva coach Larry Sandy was pleased with his team's defensive effort, limiting the defending West Region champions to just 13 points.
But the Aggie offense left plenty to be desired, failing to score against the Lions for the second consecutive season.
Velva will have a chance to redeem itself Friday in Bottineau.
"We've gotta clean a lot of things up on offense," Sandy said. "Our execution (last Thursday) was very poor; if I had to grade it out, it'd be on the failing side. Give Ryan a lot of credit for what they were able to do defensively, but on the other hand, I don't think we did a lot on offense to help ourselves."
The Aggies managed just 118 total yards against Ryan.
At 7 p.m. Friday, they'll face a Bottineau team also searching for its first win.
The Braves suffered a lopsided 48-7 loss to North Prairie last Tuesday. Like the Aggies, they struggled offensively, managing just 134 offensive yards, nearly 75 percent of which were gained by senior running back Ethan Kerslake (24 carries, 98 yards).
Velva will be without freshman two-way starter Nicholas Effertz, who sustained a severe concussion during the second quarter of last week's Copper Bowl.
It's the second severe concussion Efferz has suffered in the last 12 months, leaving an abundance of question marks over his potential return date.
For now, all precautions are being taken.
"I'm just trying to rest up, get rid of the headaches," Effertz said. "Hopefully I can get back to normal here soon, get back to school and return to regular physical activity. Right now, there's no set time when I'll come back."
Said Sandy: "You never know with concussion symptoms. Basically, we're in a situation where he's gonna have to have a period of time where he's headache free. But it could be a long recovery for him."
New Town takes 3 of top 5 spots at Bowman Invite
New Town sophomore Ryan Wheeling - the top-ranked Class B runner according to the preseason coaches poll - took first at last weekend's Bowman Invitational.
Wheeling finished the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes, 15.97 seconds, nearly 45 seconds faster than second-place finisher and teammate Jalen Chase (16:59.80). Chase is the No. 6 runner in the preseason coaches poll.
The Eagles rounded out the top five with senior Scott Hale, who crossed the finish line at 17:38.83.
Southern McLean's Kate Fox (No. 7) was the female champion at the same event, finishing the 4K course in 16:19.91.
Beulah-Hazen's Kaylene Klein took second (16:39.17), followed by Standing Rock's Charlie Bailey (16:42.63), Williston's Kayla Bloomquist (16:48.70) and Killdeer's Sydney Anderson (No. 9, 16:53.82).
Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.