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FITHIAN — Maybe it was because the temperature hovered around 40 degrees.

Maybe it was because Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin football just finished a hard-hitting battle with Oakwood.

Or maybe it was because Friday’s Week 7 game was decided — 35-6 in favor of the Blue Devils — well before the final horn.

Whatever the reason, it took a few moments after postgame handshakes for a BHRA athlete to utter the phrase.

“We’re going to the playoffs!”

That line of dialogue set off a brief, yet raucous celebration among the Blue Devils (6-1, 4-0 Vermilion Valley Conference), who doused the Comets (5-2, 2-1) with strong defensive line play and a balanced offense.

“They are (happy). They should be. They need to be,” said BHRA coach Mark Dodd, who has overseen 11 consecutive Blue Devils postseason berths. “We dominated the line of scrimmage, and that’s what I’m most happy with.”

Caleb Lahey rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns, Jacob Akins added another ground score and Avery McConkey threw a touchdown as well.

But it was BHRA’s defense that set the tone, sacking Oakwood quarterback Rhett Harrison four times across the Comets’ second and third drives.

“We just wanted to go in with the aspect of not letting them score at all this game,” said defensive tackle Talen Miller, who notched two sacks. “Obviously we failed that, but we did our best not to let them score again.”

Chase Benjamin, Dawson Cade and Andrew Van Hoveln also dropped Harrison for a loss. Dodd praised Cade, who suffered a broken leg in Week 1 and returned to action last week versus Chicago Hope.

“This week, obviously, he was feeling good,” Dodd said, “because he was much quicker and made a real good impact.”

Add in a Brody Sexton 12-yard interception return to paydirt and there were many positives for BHRA’s defense to hang its hat on.

Especially considering they all happened one week after the unit allowed a season-high 33 points to Hope.

“It showed us that we aren’t the best team around,” Miller said of the Week 6 outcome. “There’s faster kids than us. There’s more physical teams than us. So we had to step up our practice this week.”

For the Comets, star rusher Colby Smiley again was limited by a previously sprained foot.

Coach Al Craig’s offense primarily ran through the footwork of Jack Carey, Blaine McCord and Gaven Clouse, the latter of whom broke multiple tackles for a 53-yard rushing touchdown late in the second quarter.

“We didn’t have the oomph to finish the drives that we really needed,” Craig said. “It hadn’t been a problem up to this point.”

Oakwood will need to defeat either Westville or Salt Fork the next two weeks to guarantee playoff football.

The Blue Devils, meanwhile, don’t have to worry about that thanks to Friday’s result. So what does Dodd hope his boys garner from their final two regular-season tilts?

“Momentum,” he said.

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).