GRAND FORKS - Fargo South quarterback Griffin Neal put on a dazzling show in his final high school football game Saturday night.
Dazzling enough to help the Bruins win their first Class AAA state championship since 2007.
The senior completed 19 of 27 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns as South downed two-time defending champion Bismarck 28-14 at the Alerus Center.
Neal sizzled in a critical third quarter, hitting on all eight of his pass attempts for 98 yards and two TDs to propel the Bruins to a 14-point advantage.
"You want to play your best in a game like this, and it's a good feeling knowing that I played well enough to help my team get a win," Neal said. "We have a great group of seniors here, and we all did our best. We wanted to go out a winner."
Bismarck coach Mark Gibson, who was named Class AAA coach of the year, said his team's defensive game plan focused on Neal.
"He's a very good quarterback. He's a playmaker," Gibson said. "He made some big throws, and his receivers made big catches. That was the difference. They made more big plays than we did."
The Demons scored first, and it took them all of 27 seconds to do it. On the first play from scrimmage quarterback Tyson Gibson connected with Devin Schirado for 35 yards. On the next snap, running back Channing Mann broke loose for 45 yards and a score.
The yards were much harder to come by for Mann the rest of the way. The senior, who came into the night with 2,067 yards, finished with 152 yards on 26 tough carries.
"That was the biggest disappointment. ... We couldn't maintain anything offensively," Gibson said. "We came right at them right away, but South did a nice job after that. Give them credit."
South's first possession ended with a missed field goal attempt, but its second ended on a 1-yard TD run by Neal. Neal opened the 61-yard scoring drive with three straight pass completions totaling 45 yards. Matt Keim's PAT made it 7-6 South with 4:29 left in the first.
The Demons' defense got into the act early in the second quarter. Sophomore Brett Adam picked off a Neal pass on the run near midfield and didn't stop running until he crossed the goal line. Gibson and Schirado connected for the two-pointer, giving the Demons a 14-7 lead.
South answered right back, with Neal and Brock Larson hooking up for a 31-yard score with 6:58 left in the first half.
The Demons missed an opportunity in the red zone late in the half, turning the ball over on downs on the South 10.
"When you get opportunities like that, you have to take advantage," coach Gibson said.
South went ahead 21-14 midway through the third quarter on an 11-yard scoring pass from Neal to Adam Boe. The play capped a 91-yard drive that consumed 6:06.
After Bismarck was forced to punt, the Bruins drove 80 yards to the end zone, scoring on an 8-yard pass from Neal to Andrew Okland with eight seconds remaining in the third.
The Demons never got into South territory in the second half. Bismarck finished the night with 264 total yards.
"It was a tough night, but I couldn't be prouder of this group of kids," coach Gibson said. "There were lots of questions going into the season, but the kids worked hard and overcame some adversity to get to the state championship game."
Century's Carson Wentz was named Class AAA senior athlete of the year.
Fargo South 7 7 14 0 - 28
Bismarck 6 8 0 0 - 14
B - Channing Mann 45 run (kick failed), 11:33
S - Griffin Neal 1 run (Matt Keim kick), 4:29
B - Brett Adam 50 interception return (Devin Schirado pass from Tyson Gibson), 10:12
S - Brock Larson 31 pass from Neal (Keim kick), 6:58
S - Adam Boe 11 pass from Neal (Keim kick), 5:54
S - Andrew Okland 8 pass from Neal (Keim kick), :08