Based on the first seven weeks of the Class AAA football season, it looks like everybody else is playing for third.
Bismarck High and Century, both 7-0 with eye-popping point differentials, square off Friday night in what could be the first of two meetings over the next month.
Head coaches Mark Gibson of BHS and Century's Ron Wingenbach -- pushing nearly 400 wins between them -- have no interest in looking beyond anything other than Friday's main event, set for 7 p.m. at the Bowl.
"One thing that's pretty neat about it is a lot of these kids are friends off the field," Wingenbach said. "It's about bragging rights. It's a good rivalry between the two programs."
Gibson's Demons enter Friday's game ranked No. 1. Bismarck High rolling through another season is nothing new, but this year's level of dominance has been rare. Through seven games, the Demons have scored 267 more points than their opponents (339-72).
Gibson said it starts at the top.
"I think it all points to the senior leadership we have and that's one thing we've always preached here but this group has taken it to a different level," Gibson said. "The seniors have set a high bar for our younger kids to look up to.
"We had a tremendous offseason and I think it all dates back to that."
Gibson highlighted the work of Mike Salwei and Robert Fuller, who head up the strength and conditioning program for the Demons.
"They do a tremendous job with our weight program and our kids have put in the work," Gibson said. "It all kind of works together."
The Demons average nearly 50 points per game and have not had a game that was competitive going into the fourth quarter.
"I think that's a concern in that our starters haven't had to play in the fourth quarter," Gibson said. "Obviously we're expecting that to change in a big way on Friday. It's going to be a four-quarter game."
The Demons have steady senior quarterback Will Madler triggering the offense. Isaiah Olsen leads the West Region in rushing yards (692) and touchdowns (12). Jared Hager has seven scores, while Madler has several talented pass-catchers with Matt Trolliey and Joe Jahner topping the list.
Century started the season with a defensive line that everybody was wary of. That certainly has held true as the Patriots have allowed just 70 points in seven games with UND recruit Tanner Thorsness, Mason Leingang, Jacob Schweigert and company providing a sturdy curtain up front.
"Coming into the season the defensive line was where we probably had the most depth on our roster and they've played well," Wingenbach said. "They're going to be very important for us (Friday) because we're going up against an offense that has been prolific in putting points on the board. We have our work cut out for us."
Century's offense also has kicked it into gear, scoring 41 against Minot two weeks ago and 45 last Friday on the road against then No. 4-ranked Fargo Davies.
"I think we kind of rode our defense for the majority of the season but the offense is coming along," Wingenbach said. "We've had more continuity and that leads to more consistency."
Wingenbach said senior wide receiver/linebacker Treyton Mattern will play for the first time since suffering a back injury in the season opener against West Fargo Sheyenne on Aug. 24.
Gibson said facing a true dual-threat quarterback in junior Cade Feeney is of concern for the Demons.
"Century is the most physical team we'll see the entire season," Gibson said. "Their defensive line has been dominant. I don't think anybody is expecting to be able to run up and down the field at will."
BHS and Century perched atop the AAA poll is a common occurrence. Typically, however, they have company. But with Minot and West Fargo having uncharacteristically down years, while the Demons and Patriots continue to steamroll, it's difficult to envision anything other than a rematch for all the marbles at the Dakota Bowl Nov. 9 at the Fargodome.
"There have been years similar to this where there was a big 3. So from that standpoint all the lopsided scores are somewhat unusual," Gibson said. "But I don't think you can just make the assumption that things are going to continue like this. With the leadership we have from our seniors I think they understand that what has happened so far isn't a guarantee of anything going forward."
Other variables also could factor in down the stretch.
"When you get into the playoffs you can have cold weather a lot of times and that can really start to minimize the gap between teams," Wingenbach said. "We feel good about how we're playing and how we're practicing. I think our kids have the right approach going into this game. They know it's a big game against a really good team and we're hoping to put our best foot forward."