It had been 16 years since a state football trophy was carried into the Hazen gym and about 250 fans turned out Monday night to bring its long-awaited successor home.
The Hazen Bison defeated Westhope-Newburg-Glenburg 55-28 to win the Class A title in Grand Forks on Friday.
It was one of those wins that meant as much to the boys who played the game as it did to the town that watched those boys grow up and jell into a remarkable team.
The homecoming rally — on a chilly Veterans Day holiday night — was an open microphone format. And everyone from a little kid to a mom to a playground aide when those boys were tykes took the chance to say, in summary, “Thanks, we’re so very proud of you.”
Paul Doll, Cenex manager and dad of player Connor Doll, said the team was a mixed bunch that became its own family.
“They believed and achieved,” he said.
Coach Rick Philion said the win belonged to the community for its fantastic support in money and energy to help the team along.
He looked over to the boys in green and told them, “I’ll be glad to be linked to you guys forever.”
Player Connor Hill said he cried like a baby when the Bison lost its season opener to local rival Beulah Miners.
“The coach told me, ‘It’ll get better,’” Hill said, with a pause for timing.
“It did,” he said.
Hazen High School Principal Ed Boger, the so-called voice of the Bison, led the crowd one last time in its favorite call of any game: “That’s another Bison first down!”