In its return to Class 2A football, Hillsboro-Central Valley is ranked No. 1
HILLSBORO, N.D. — The Hillsboro-Central Valley football team would have liked a rubber match against Langdon Area-Munich, but a revenge game win over Bismarck St. Mary’s may have been just as sweet.
After splitting back-to-back North Dakota Class 1A state championship games against Langdon, the Burros moved up to Class 2A and haven’t missed a beat. They reign at the top of the polls in their new class and are fresh off a 20-7 victory over perennial power St. Mary’s — a team that eliminated them in the state semifinals the last time H-CV was in 2A, back in 2016. And the Burros have another tough matchup Friday as they travel to play No. 2 Beulah.
“Football is football,” H-CV coach Scott Olsen said. “In terms of how teams play and how hard they play, it’s very similar. You just get a little more depth in 2A with the bigger teams. I said that four years ago when we moved up then too. You’ve just got to play hard every snap if you want to survive. You’ve got to play that way. And if you don’t, you’re going to be in a hurt bag.”
It doesn’t matter to H-CV that it may be a little smaller and have a little bit less depth than its opponents. It’s not going to back down to anybody. The Burros play hard and win with technique. Football is still football to them no matter the level, they just keep doing their thing and keep winning.
Even against a dominant Saints team that played in five of the last six 2A state championships and won four, nothing changed. The Burros played their game and took care of business. And they plan to do the same on Friday, traveling across the state to face Beulah.
“So far it’s all been pretty much the same,” said senior running back Oscar Benson, a North Dakota State football commit. “We’ve got a little bit of an undersized line, but at the end of the day, it’s the technique that will win you games and we’ve got good coaches that coach the line well and they know what they’re doing. Size doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, it’s just football. You play your heart out and leave it all out there.”
The Burros win with a suffocating defense that takes the ball away and doesn’t let teams score, an option offense and sound offensive line play. Gavin Wright and Ezra Longthorne both have multiple interceptions in the secondary, Benson and senior quarterback Micah Gallagher keep the offense moving, and the line is anchored by Kaden Pastian and Joseph Camrud.
H-CV hasn’t allowed multiple scores in a regular season game since a 48-14 win over Ellendale-Edgeley-Kulm in Week 7 of 2017. And the only times the Burros have allowed double-digit points in the playoffs in that span were the two state championship games against Langdon. The Burros defeated the Cardinals 16-14 in 2017 and lost to Langdon 20-18 last season.
“It would have been great (to play a third game against LA-M),” Olsen said. “We played two tough games against a quality opponent in Langdon. Both games were fun and tight and one day maybe we’ll get a third game.”
The Burros brought the same dominating defense with them against new foes in their new class, defeating Grafton 47-0 in Week 1, Watford City 46-6 in Week 2, and stifling St. Mary’s last week.
“Defense is key,” Benson said. “It doesn’t matter how much you score if they score on you every drive. So you’ve got to be able to force some turnovers and hold them to minimal points. That’s what we try to do. We try to study the opposing offense and counter everything they have.”
Benson and the Burros have their hands full Friday against Beulah and its offense, which is full of shifting and misdirection. H-CV’s defense is going to have to rely on film study against the team that has been tough for everybody to stop so far this year. Beulah has scored 22, 36 and 42 points in wins over Valley City, Devils Lake, and Wahpeton.
“It’ll definitely be a battle,” senior tight end Landen Reed said. “They’ve got some big guys on the line and they run a little bit different offense that we really haven’t seen. It’ll be a battle of a game.”