Two out of three isn’t bad as long as the two are very, very good.
Two phases of Bismarck High’s game were very, very good on Friday and that was enough to beat Fargo North 44-0 in a Class AAA quarterfinal playoff football game at MDU Resources Community Bowl.
The Demons’ defense and special teams more than made up for a lackluster offense, holding the Spartans (5-5) to 113 yards, and scoring on a kickoff return, blocking two punts and forcing three turnovers.
“This time of year you’ve got to take advantage of things,” Bismarck coach Mark Gibson said. “You’ve got to play all three phases. In two of the phases we played extremely well, one phase we didn’t. We’ve got some work to do.”
The top-ranked and Demons (10-0) took a 37-0 lead midway through the second quarter and coasted into the semifinals in hopes of winning their first championship since 2012. North was appearing in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The Demons eliminated North that season 46-20 in the quarterfinals.
Bismarck will play Fargo Davies in the semifinals next weekend at the Community Bowl. They’ll need to show more on offense.
Thousand-yard rusher Isaiah Olsen rushed for 102 yards and scored on runs of 1 and 53 yards. But the Demons were held to just 149 yards on the ground. Quarterback Will Madler was 11-for-18 for 103 yards and a touchdown. But he was victimized by several dropped passes.
“We had a lot of short fields early,” Gibson said. “Our defense and special teams were outstanding. Offensively we did not play very well. Up front we stunk.”
The Demons took advantage of a season-full of mistakes by North in the first half beginning with the first snap of the game. The exchange shot above quarterback Caleb Fritel, who ran it down at the 1-yard line. It was the first of three bad snaps that resulted in a loss of 60 yards and led to three touchdowns.
Canyon Stonecipher blocked two punts and ran down Fritel at the North 5-yard line for a 24-yard loss on a bad snap. “We watched film and coach said I just had to go inside gap and jump,” Stonecipher said. “The second I got in the stomach.
“Offense was flat for some reason, so defense stepped up,” Stonecipher added. “We had to pick it up until the offense got going.”
North played better in the second half, but it was too late by then to overcome first-half mistakes that also included:
- An illegal block on a kickoff pinned the Spartans deep and led to a safety, and a 74-yard touchdown return by Olsen on the ensuing kickoff.
- Two Bismarck interceptions ended North drives.
- North had just 16 yards of offense before a long drive late in the half moved the ball to the Bismarck 2-yard line. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty ended the threat.
Bismarck’s Matt Russell ran for 23 yards and scored the game’s first touchdown on a 10-yard run. Jared Hager ran for 28 yards and scored on a 28-yard run. But he finished the game on the sideline with a leg injury.
Fritel led North in rushing with 55 yards on 16 carries. He was 4-for-13 for 27 yards.
With 4:49 left, Matt Trolliey got behind the defense and hauled in a TD pass for the only score of the second half.
Gibson wasn’t buying the excuse that with the game out of hand, his team may have relaxed.
“We can make excuses, we can do a lot of things,” Gibson said. “But the bottom line is I don’t think opffensively we played very well at all. But give them credit. We talked all week that they weren’t going to be a team that laid down. Tip my hat to the North kids. They played hard all four quarters.”