It's probably safe to say that Will Madler knows his way around the football facilities at Hughes Field about as well as anybody.
Madler's dad, Steve, now in his ninth year as principal at Century, was an assistant football coach at Bismarck High School when Will was just a tyke. He'd regularly show up with his son in tow.
"I think there's a picture someplace of Greg Eslinger holding me and the (state championship) trophy up," Will recalls.
That would have been in the fall of 2001 after the undefeated Demons defeated Fargo South 21-9 at the Fargodome for the state AAA championship. Will was maybe a year old at the time.
Madler a 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior, now plays quarterback for the Demons. He's a third-year starting signal-caller, and he believes it's time for this crop of BHS seniors to add a championship to the legend and lore of the Maroon and White.
"Throughout the history of the (football) program they've always done very, very well. During coach (Mark) Gibson's time they've won five state championships, and we want to be part of one of those," Will said.
Will has been the starting Demons quarterback since the first game of his sophomore year. Sophomore quarterbacks have been rare during Gibson's 20 seasons at the BHS helm, but he didn't hesitate when it came to installing Will in the lineup.
"It was easy in Will's case," Gibson said. "He's been around the program forever. ... His dad used to coach with us.
"The thing about Will is he's not only a great football player, he's a better person off the field. ... He's a great kid in the classroom and a great leader. He's the All-American kid, he really is."
As the leader of Bismarck's traditional physical, run-first offense, Will does much more handing off than he does passing. And with nary a complaint, according to Gibson.
"The best thing, above all, about Will is he'd benefit greatly if we threw the ball 35 or 40 times a game. But he wouldn't care if we threw just once or twice if the team did well," Gibson observed. "... In today's world that's not always easy to find."
Will has thrown enough to make Bismarck the third-ranked passing team in the West Region. With the returns from last week's 48-0 victory over Williston still outstanding, Madler had connected on 43 of 64 passes for 741 yards and seven touchdowns. He'd been intercepted twice.
Put that together with Isaiah Olsen's 602 yards and nine TDs at tailback and you've got an offense that averages 427 yards and 47.2 points per game. Rushing accounts for 65 percent of that real estate.
Defensively, BHS is ranked second in the region, surrendering an average of 268 yards and 12.4 points per game.
Bismarck has been ranked No. 1 in the state AAA media poll since the first week of the season. The Demons have scored over 40 points in every game while going 6-0. Only two teams have scored more than one touchdown against BHS.
Will concedes that kind of track record has its downside.
"It puts a target on your back. You can become lackadaisical ... and when you get that attitude you can get beat," he said. "Last year West Fargo was in that position all year and played hard every game. That's what we have to do."
Gibson is well aware complacency in the locker room can be a dangerous thing. But he believes Will and his fellow seniors are well-adjusted enough to snuff out such an attitude, should it arise.
"We have a special group of seniors. Every year we've been successful you could look at the senior class and its leadership. They understand each week what it takes to be successful. ... They've bought into the team concept," Gibson noted. "And above all, they make sure everyone plays hard."
Will said his outlook has changed as a senior.
"As seniors we've got to lead. The past two years we've been able to follow the seniors," he said. "This is definitely exciting, but now we've got to lead for everyone. ... Your senior year you know you have to step everything up in order for the team to be successful.
"Our seniors have stepped up and the juniors understand we're taking this season seriously. And we've made a run."
The rest of Bismarck's regular-season schedule has a strong local flavor. The Demons visit third-place Legacy Friday night at Bismarck State College.
BHS tangles with Century, currently unbeaten and the state's second-ranked AAA team, the following Friday. Bismarck closes regular-season play on Oct. 17, playing host to Dickinson, which is currently winless.
Will, a three-sport athlete, hasn't enjoyed the thrill of hoisting a state championship trophy.
He's a two-time second-team all-stater in football. He was an all-state pick in baseball last spring, primarily as a shortstop, but the Demons failed to reach the state tournament for the second straight year.
BHS failed to qualify for the state tournament in basketball his sophomore year, and last winter he missed the entire season due to injury. He suffered a broken bone in his left foot in Bismarck's final football game.
"It was a four-month injury," he said.
As a senior, Will knows the opportunities to grab an elusive title are slipping away.
"The coaches come in every day and push us to get better. The last few seasons we came up short. We want to finish out this season and be successful," he said.