The Bismarck High football team was off to a 3-0 start this season, but coach Mark Gibson wondered how his young team could handle adversity.
Does losing your starting quarterback in a game against your archrival in a battle of the two top-ranked teams in the state qualify? Because the Demons passed that test with flying colors on Friday.
Layne Johs scored two touchdowns, and Brett Adam, filling in for the injured Ben Jolliffe, did as well, as top-ranked Bismarck held off Century 27-19.
Adam, a starting split end, hadn't taken many snaps in practice at quarterback. But the Demons needed him when Jolliffe went down with a high ankle sprain with Bismarck clinging to a 14-13 lead late in the first half.
"He took the play sheet, and I asked him what he's comfortable with," Gibson said. "He said, ‘All of it.'
"... I love that kid," Gibson said. "He's a winner."
Adam didn't throw for any yards, but it didn't matter. He kept things running smoothly as the Demons rolled up 267 yards on the ground, 98 by Johs.
"Right away everybody was down when Ben got hurt, but Coach Gibson came in there and told us, ‘(Number) Six will get the job done if you trust him,' and Brett came out and did it for us," Johs said.
Jolliffe got the Demons off to a great start, scrambling for a 52-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. Three plays later, Johs scored from 2 yards out to make it 6-0.
After forcing Century to go three-and-out, the Demons again struck quickly. First Jolliffe hooked up with Devin Schirado for a 20-yard gain.
On the next play, Johs grabbed a tipped ball and scampered for a 54-yard touchdown reception. The ball appeared to be tipped by Century's Dalton Weisz, but Johs said it actually went off the hands of Adam, the intended receiver.
"Ben threw it over the top, and I was right in position," Johs said. "I saw Brett drop the pass. I just had to grab it and run. That's it.
"... It was like it was meant to be. It was right there."
Bismarck couldn't have asked for a better start, up 14-0 with less than five minutes elapsed.
"Electrifying," Gibson said. "Our kids came out, and they were ready."
But Century settled down and clawed back into the game. The Patriots started two of their next three possessions in Bismarck territory and made good use of the short field, scoring both times.
The first touchdown came on an 8-yard run by Ben Kraft, who had 85 yards on the night. The second came when a screen pass from Jared Fischer to Drew Wiseman turned into a 20-yard score. Jared Haug got a mitt on Dominic Neameyer's PAT attempt, keeping Bismarck ahead 14-13.
"That was kind of a backbreaker to get (down 14-0), but we rebounded pretty well," Century coach Ron Wingenbach said. "We had every opportunity thereafter. The kids came back and played hard."
Neither team could generate any offense in the third quarter, but things picked up on the first play of the fourth.
A low punt by Dexter Werner just kept on rolling pinning, Century on its own 1-yard line. The Patriots decided to take a shot downfield, but Fischer's pass was picked off by Nick Goulet.
Bismarck capitalized on the good field position, its drive culminating in a 1-yard run by Adam. That made it 21-13 with 7:05 to play.
"That was awesome," Johs said. "Our defensive coordinator (Dale Colby) actually told us that it was going to be a play-action fade, and he was right."
Century answered immediately. Deion Volk turned a swing pass into a 35-yard gain. On the next play, Fischer (129 yards passing) fired a 32-yard strike to Wiseman for a score. The two-point conversion pass was picked off by Adam, preserving Bismarck's lead at 21-19.
Bismarck wasn't to be denied. Kip Jangula burst through the line for a 43-yard run, setting up another 1-yard score by Adam. The PAT failed, and the Demons were up 27-19 with 3:29 to go.
Bismarck's defense then shut down Century to preserve the win.
"I was really disappointed in the second half," Wingenbach said. "We never we didn't mount anything offensively, and that's disheartening."
Gibson said he's not certain when Jolliffe - who threw for 74 yards and rushed for 64 - will be able to return. But the Demons proved they could win without him if necessary.
"We're definitely going to savor this for now and figure out what we're doing next," Gibson said. "I couldn't be any more proud of this football team."
Bismarck 14 0 0 13 - 27
Century 7 6 0 6 - 19
B - Layne Johs 2 run (kick failed), 10:17.
B - Johs 54 pass from Ben Jolliffe (Devin Schirado pass from Jolliffe), 7:12.
C - Ben Kraft 8 run (Dominic Neameyer kick), 1:53.
C - Drew Wiseman 20 pass from Jared Fischer (kick failed), 8:23.
B - Brett Adam 1 run (Cody Ward kick), 7:05
C - Wiseman 32 pass from Fischer 6:03.
B - Adam 1 run (kick failed), 3:29.
First downs 14 9
Rushes-yards 49-267 23-62
Passing yards 74 129
Passing 3-10-0 9-18-1
Fumbles-lost 4-0 0-0
Punts-avg 4-29.0 6-35.3
Penalties-yds 5-48 5-46
Rushing: B - Layne Johs 20-98, Kip Jangula 8-66, Ben Jolliffe 6-64, Brett Adam 15-39. C - Ben Kraft 15-85, Dylan Leutz 2-0, Jacob Erickson 1-0, Drew Wiseman 1-(minus-5), Jared Fischer 5-(minus-18).
Passing: B - Jolliffe 3-9-0, 74 yards; Adam 0-1-0, 0 yards. C - Fischer 9-18-1, 129.
Receiving: B - Josh 2-54, Devin Schirado 1-20. C - Wiseman 2-52, Leutz 2-30, Deion Volk 1-35, Brennan Dean 1-7, Braxton Felch 1-3, Andre Maund 1-3, Zach Rhone 1-(minus-1).
Records: B 1-0 West Region, 4-0 overall; C 1-1, 3-1.