In their tune-up for the Class AAA playoffs Wednesday night, the No. 2-ranked and West Region champion Century Patriots didn't appear as fine-tuned as they were in their 34-15 victory over rival Bismarck High on Oct. 13.
However, that didn't seem to bother Century coach Ron Wingenbach. Not much, anyway.
"The ultimate goal was getting a win against a good football team, and we did that," said Wingenbach after the two-time defending state champion Patriots defeated Legacy 23-13 at the Community Bowl in the regular-season finale for both teams. "We also played a lot of kids tonight. We gave them some reps to prepare them for the playoffs, and most important, we came out of this game injury-free. We didn't play our best game, and Legacy had a lot to do with that. We were flat at times, and we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers, which was very uncharacteristic of us, but I know the kids will come back ready to play Century football in the playoffs."
The Patriots, who improved to 6-0 in region play and 8-1 overall, will host the No. 4 team out of the East Region, Fargo Davies, in a quarterfinal playoff game Oct. 27. Legacy, 3-3 in the region and 5-4 overall, will take on No. 1-ranked and East Region champion West Fargo in West Fargo.
Century got off to a slow start on Wednesday night, but maintained control after building a 10-0 lead. Late in the first quarter, Kade Lynch put the Patriots on the Legacy 24-yard line with a 21-yard punt return, and five plays later, running back Nathan Kraft scored from two yards out with 29 seconds remaining.
The Patriots stalled on the Legacy 20 and 24 on their next two possessions, but a 63-yard march produced a 22-yard field goal by Austin Underhill with 1:42 left in the first half.
After the ensuing kickoff, Legacy quarterback Jason Hoekstra completed passes of 36 yards to Patrick Doan and 16 yards to Austin Wolf to put the Sabers on the scoreboard. Wolf missed the extra point and the half ended 10-6 in Century's favor. Legacy managed just 40 total yards before the TD drive.
"We didn't take advantage of a few opportunities in the first half, but fortunately our defense stepped up and made stops," Wingenbach said. "We gave up some big plays at the end of the half, but overall, I was happy with the effort."
The Patriots committed a turnover on their first possession of the second half, but a fumbled snap gave Century the ball on the Legacy 4. Quarterback Cade Fenney scored on a 1-yard keeper two plays later to make it 16-6.
After forcing a Legacy punt, the Patriots drove 51 yards to pay dirt, scoring on a 13-yard run by Kraft with 4:11 remaining in the third quarter. Underhill’s second extra point of the night extended Century's lead to 23-6.
The Sabers answered on their next possession as Hoekstra and Wolf connected for a 52-yard touchdown. Wolf's PAT trimmed the deficit to 10.
Later, a successful on-side kick, a 38-yard pass from Hoekstra to Wolf, and a personal foul penalty put the Sabers on the Century 5. After three incomplete passes, Wolf missed a 22-yard field goal attempt, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty put the ball on the Century 3. Two plays later, Hoekstra tried to run, but fumbled the ball into the end zone for a touchback.
Legacy didn't threaten again.
The Patriots rushed for 225 yards and passed for 120. Kraft carried 14 times for 89 yards, and Feeney added 84 yards. Jakob Olson completed eight of 14 passes for 84 yards.
For the Sabers, Hoekstra threw for 169 yards, but was only 7-for-23 passing with an interception. Legacy rushed for 74 yards on 28 attempts.