HAZEN - Top-ranked Hazen has amassed a whopping 333 points this year, but its finest piece of work came on a defensive stand Tuesday night at Bison Field.
Leading No. 2 Killdeer - the top-scoring team in Class A - by eight measly points late in the fourth quarter, the Bison needed one more stop.
With a sack by junior Seth Kreil and the help of three costly Killdeer penalties, Hazen forced a turnover on downs to secure its 16th straight win dating back to Sept. 14, 2012.
Hazen fullback Nate Leintz advances 46 yards on a screen pass Tuesday night at Bison Field. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Hazen senior Nate Leintz ran in from 43 yards in the final minute to put an exclamation point on the Bison's 21-6 win and their third Region 4 title in a row.
"The last drive, we knew what we had to do," Leintz said. "We couldn't let them get in the end zone, because who knows what would've happened then. We just had to come together as a team, play defense and just stop them."
The Bison (8-0 overall, 6-0 region) limited an offense averaging nearly 49 points a game to a single touchdown. Killdeer (7-1, 5-1) also entered the game with a state-best average margin of victory at 40.1 points.
"They play a lot of misdirection type of stuff and they're trying to get you one-on-one," Hazen coach Rick Philion said. "As long as we felt we could play our gaps, play our responsibilities, we felt we'd be able to cover everything. For the most part we did a pretty good job of playing team defense."
Hazen's defense opened with an interception followed by a three-and-out.
Sophomore linebacker Jonah Zimmerman picked off Killdeer junior Trenton Rohr on the third play from scrimmage. Three plays later, Hazen senior running back Briar Bornemann found daylight down the left sideline and scurried in from 25 yards just three minutes into the contest.
"That was a huge play in the game," Leintz said. "I think the momentum shifted in our favor after that and just helped us out big time."
Late in the second quarter, Rohr fumbled deep in Killdeer territory and Hazen senior linebacker Hunter Fears jumped on it to set up the Bison's second score.
Leintz rumbled in untouched for a 5-yard score and a 14-0 halftime lead, which held until the fourth quarter.
Rohr tossed a jump ball to 6-foot-3 senior tight end Calum Blankenship, who snatched it from 5-7 Hazen cornerback Dominick Opp for a 21-yard score.
Killdeer, which limited Hazen to one first down in the second half, forced the Bison to punt on the ensuing drive. That left the Cowboys with 2 minutes, 37 seconds to score eight points.
Rohr found Blankenship for one first down, but then lost 14 yards on Kreil's sack. Three penalties pushed Killdeer back farther and the drive ended after a 20-yard gain on fourth-and-41.
Hazen and Killdeer could still meet in the state playoffs, and Killdeer coach Lou Dobitz expects a rematch. Both teams are guaranteed at least one home playoff game, but the Bison clinched home-field advantage with the win.
Said Dobitz: "Both teams came into this football game knowing that, really, the competition of the region was down and that other games were not games that everybody had to play in all the time. This game, everybody played all the time. We now know where we stand. They do, too."
Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.