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101519-spt-Football-03

Mandan's Dane Carlson drops back to pass in a game earlier this season.

Few Mandan quarterbacks have played in the high school football playoffs for two consecutive years. Senior Dane Carlson is one — sort of.

 Carlson guided a late touchdown drive last weekend to lead the Braves to a 23-19 win over Fargo Davies in the state Class AAA quarterfinals in Fargo. He threw a 35-yard TD pass to Elijah Klein with 1:18 to play for Mandan’s first playoff win since 2011.

 “That was a revenge game for us. They beat us the last two times we played,” Carlson said.

 Carlson was in for just a handful of plays in last year’s quarterfinal loss to Davies. He was instrumental in the Braves’ drive to the postseason last year but a broken bone in his leg limited him to about 10 painful snaps in the playoffs.

 “That was tough but I just did everything I could to get the backups to step up and do what they had to do," Carlson said. "It was hard but that was my role at the time.”

 Carlson’s role will be different on Friday when the Braves (7-3) cross the river to meet top-ranked and unbeaten Century (10-0) in the semifinals.

 “In your senior year you want to be out there for the last week of high school football,” Carlson and. “It feels great to be out there helping.”

 “His personality is no different in-game than how he approaches things on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday,” Mandan coach Todd Sheldon said. “That kind of personality rubs off on other kids.”

 Carlson is just one of the Braves’ key offensive threats. He has completed 81 of 156 passes for 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns. Of those, 10 scores have gone to Klein, who has 37 catches for 666 yards.

 The pair connected for the winning score against Davies, but others played key roles in the drive. Aaron Riopelle caught a first-down pass on fourth-and-10 and Austin Frey had a series of long runs against the Eagles' defense dropping off to cover the pass.

 Frey has been a primary threat all year with 1,125 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

 “He runs with a chip on his shoulder. He always has and I hope he always does,” Sheldon said. “He just plays that way. He’s here to prove he’s good and we’re good. He runs a little bit angry.”

 Frey has run behind a deep line that helped the Braves lead the West Region in total offense (360.8) during the regular season. By comparison, Century averaged 350.6. But in their 37-15 loss to Century in October, the Braves managed just 13 yards rushing.

 They’ve been steady since then, but the line of junior Kaden Scott, junior Jaxon Duttenhefer, junior Tytus Bachmeier, senior Danek Vega and junior Cort Heinert will be key against the Patriots’ big front line.

 “We have quality depth at the offensive line,” Sheldon said.

That’s why he’s been able to move the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Duttenhefer to the backfield in short-yardage situations.

“We had been so thin at the offensive line, there weren’t a lot of backups,” Sheldon said.

 Sheldon said the Patriots pose a different threat than most teams.

“Century probably has five kids that are next-level players on that line. The size factor is huge,” he said. “Part of playing a team with battering rams up front is making timely substitutions.”

 Carlson understands the task at hand.

“Obviously, they’re a great team,” he said. “We’re doing different things, mixing different offenses in there and changing things up on defense to give them a curve ball as much as you can. There’s not a lot of weaknesses on that team, but every team has one. We just have to find it.”

 Mandan has never been to the Dakota Bowl, while Century is bidding for its fourth trip in five years.

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