When you’re a senior and a quarterback on a two-time defending state championship team, you’ve got to be ready to assume plenty of responsibility.
Century’s Jakob Olson accepted that role and thrived on it Friday night. Olson had his fingerprints on all five touchdowns as the Patriots knocked off archrival Bismarck 34-15 in a pivotal AAA West Region matchup on the Bismarck State College campus.
Olson threw a pair of scoring strikes to Jake Zittleman in the first half and went to the air for 178 yards in the game. On the ground he ran a surprising 17 times for 66 yards and reached paydirt three times.
All the running was intended to throw a monkey wrench in Bismarck’s defensive plans, according to Olson, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound second-year starter.
“That was in the game plan,” Olson said. “I feel like (the CHS coaches) have been saving me all year. They know I can run the ball. Bismarck prepared for (running back Nathan) Kraft and (wideout Kade) Lynch, but you can’t prepare for everything. That leaves me open.”
With the victory, Century locked up the No. 1 West Region seed in the state playoffs, which begin the final week in October. The Patriots are 5-0 in the region and 7-1 on the year. Bismarck, 4-1 and 6-2, will go in as the West’s No. 2 seed.
Bismarck scored first, but Century quickly asserted itself to take a 20-8 halftime lead.
BHS took the opening kickoff and drove 70 yards in 11 plays to open the night’s scoring. Tailback Jalen Sprecher capped the march with a 15-yard run with 7:02 to play in the first period. A two-point conversion pass from quarterback Will Madler to Joe Jahner put the Demons up 8-0.
Century responded quickly and forcefully.
The Patriots scored on an 11-play, 65-yard drive on their ensuing possession, reaching the end zone on Olson’s 23-yard pass to a wide-open Zittleman with 1:52 remaining in the first period. Cole Leier kicked the conversion.
Century made the most of the remaining seconds in the first quarter, forcing a Bismarck punt and striking with 23 seconds remaining on a 58-yard pass play, Olson to Zittleman. Leier put the Patriots ahead 14-8 at the quarter break.
Olson scored the only points of the second quarter, darting in from 10 yards out at the conclusion of a nine-play, 51-yard march. A penalty left Leier with a 35-yard kick for the PAT and his attempt was blocked, giving Century a 20-8 halftime advantage.
Bismarck came out strong after the intermission, forcing a punt that resulted in its best field position of the game.
Starting at the CHS 46, the Demons scored in nine plays, the closer a 21-yard pass from Madler to Jahner. Zac Schmidt’s PAT kick pulled BHS to within five points of the Patriots at 20-15.
That proved to be the end of the line for Bismarck, however. In their final four possessions, the Demons punted twice, fumbled the ball away and threw an interception.
Century, meanwhile, salted the victory away with two fourth-quarter scores, both one-yard runs by Olson.
Senior linebacker Levi Rockey, who was in on 10 tackles for Century, said the defense didn’t panic when Bismarck started fast in the second half.
“We just kept talking (after the second BHS TD) and tried to pick each other up. We knew our defense was going to come back,” Rockey observed. “… I feel we did a good job of holding Sprecher down. We wanted to limit their running game and I thought we did it well.”
Indeed, Century held Bismarck, which entered the game averaging 34.9 points and 363 yards per game, to 15 points and 208 yards in 53 plays.
The Demons gained just 62 yards in 25 runs. Madler threw for 146 yards and was intercepted once.
Bismarck’s other turnover was a game-changer.
With the Demons down 28-15 and driving at the Century 18-yard line in the middle of the fourth quarter, Madler was sacked by Tanner Thorsness and fumbled. Devyn Vance recovered the loose ball at the Century 49 and the Patriots went on to score their final touchdown.
Century rushed for 195 yards and threw for 199 while avoiding turnovers.
Olson said the victory was huge in several respects.
“I don’t think we’ve been undisputed WDA champions, and it’s good to win a game against your cross-town rival,” he noted. “This gives us the playoff position we want, and it’s great to be part of this environment and play in all these big games.”
“This meant a lot to us with the city rivalry and getting the win for a better (playoff) seed,” Rockey said.
Both teams conclude regular-season play on Wednesday. Century plays Legacy and Bismarck visits Dickinson.