Saturday afternoon at Joe Roller Field was more of the same as the Firebirds welcomed in No. 2 Hillsboro/Central Valley (5-1, 1-0 AA East). Despite the game ending in a 21-0 loss for the Firebirds, Devils Lake's (1-5, 0-2 AA East) second-half performance was a complete opposite from the first half.

Devils Lake football has been through the gauntlet this season. They faced the number one team in the state twice, played the then second-ranked team in its second game, and played the number five ranked team last week.  

Saturday afternoon at Joe Roller Field was more of the same as the Firebirds welcomed in No. 2 Hillsboro/Central Valley (5-1, 1-0 AA East). Despite the game ending in a 21-0 loss for the Firebirds, Devils Lake's (1-5, 0-2 AA East) second-half performance was a complete opposite from the first half. 

"Our finish was good," senior running back Zach Lange said. "If we just played like that in the first half it would've been a very different outcome." 

 The Burros' offensive production was stunned in the second half, as the Firebirds put HCV in a handful of fourth-down situations. The Burros were able to convert on fourth at the goal line off a short drive from Kaden Pastian, but Devils Lake would stand tall at the end of the third quarter at the line, shutting down HCV on fourth and 2. 

"We just did great," Lange said. "We shut them down in the second half, so it speaks for itself." 

The Firebirds surge on defense would continue down to the final minute of the game as junior running back Colton Schneider would block a Burros field goal attempt and recover the ball for Devils Lake. In the five times, they have faced the top five teams in the state, Saturday was the least amount of points allowed by the Firebirds and first shutout in that category. 

However, that defensive stand didn't come soon enough for Devils Lake as by the second half the Firebirds were down 14. Both touchdowns would be scored by Gannon Limke, with the first one coming off a 40-yard pass from Samuel Preston and the second off a 20-yard pass from Preston. Both scores came early in the first quarter.  

The Devils Lake offense struggled to penetrate the HCV defense, as they would fail to enter the red zone throughout the game. The Firebirds rush was able to move the ball beyond midfield a few times, led off by Lange and Schneider. 

"I'm just trying to be there for my team and doing what I can on offense," Lange said. 

In facing teams like Bismarck St. Mary's Central, Central Cass, and HCV, Lange said it allows younger guys to get experience playing against that sort of talent. The learning and adaptation of the younger core is something the Firebirds have pressed throughout the season. In limiting the number two team in the state to just seven points in the second half has shown growth to the younger group.  

Devils Lake faces another challenge next week as they host Valley City, who received votes in this week's NDHSAA poll. They then face Wahpeton on the road on Oct. 16, who is sitting in a similar place at 1-4 on the season with losses to Buelah and HCV. Firebirds wrap up the regular season at home on Oct. 24 against Kindred. 

Contact Jack Williams with any comments at JGWilliams1@gannett.com or on Twitter @jackgwilliams.