A tale of two halves. In the first half, Bismarck’s defense seized the game by the throat.
In the second half, the BHS offense expanded on a good thing.
The final result: Bismarck 34, Fargo Davies 13, in a Class AAA football semifinal at the MDU Resources Community Bowl.
The Demons move on to play arch-rival Century in next Friday’s state championship game in the Dakota Bowl at the Fargodome. Game time is 6:40 p.m.
Bismarck’s defense took the Eagles by the throat in the first half, forcing two fumbles, picking off a pass and forcing two punts.
The Demon offense played the role of opportunist well, scoring in the wake of each of the Davies turnovers.
Matt Trolliey peeled the ball from Ty Satter after a long pass play with Koltan Nyhusmoen recovering at the BHS 22.
A nine-play scoring drive ensued, Bismarck’s Isaiah Olsen scoring on a two-yard run. A Mason Stotz kick made it 7-0 with 5:50 expired.
Quarterback Jesse Forknell, sacked by Canyon Stonecipher, fumbled the ball away on the next Eagle possession. Defensive lineman Hunter Edwards picked up the loose ball and rambled 60 yards to the Davies 10-yard line.
Two plays later, quarterback Will Madler scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak and BHS had a 14-0 lead.
A halfback pass by Satter went awry in Davies’ third possession, Matt Trolliey picking the ball off in traffic at the BHS 31 on the final play of the first quarter.
The Demons drove to the Davies 5-yard line before stalling and settling for 22-yard field goal by Stotz.
That put Bismarck in command 17-0, due in large part to defensive takeaways.
Stonecipher, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound defensive tackle, said the defense wasn’t focusing on takeaways at the outset of the game.
“It’s just the way things unfolded,” he said. “You’ve got to go with the flow and see what happens. … If we do our jobs, we should get fumble recoveries and interceptions. It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time. We’re taught that one guy tackles and the other guy strips the ball.”
Stotz kicked a 27-yard field goal in Bismarck’s first possession of the second half, and after that the two teams traded touchdowns. However, Davies never got closer than 14 points.
Satter grabbed a 30-yard pass from Forknell and Brett Vetter dashed seven yards for the second-half Eagle touchdowns.
Bismarck got a nine-yard scoring run from Matt Russell and a 21-yard scoring strike from Madler to Joe Jahner after intermission.
BHS had limited success with its normally productive running game, but made up for it through the air. Madler connected on 14 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown.
“Our tailback (Isaiah Olsen) is a really special player. I think (Davies) came into the game wanting to take away the run,” Madler said.
Madler said that left plenty of room for him to operate.
“Every opportunity I get to throw the ball I want to capitalize on … and we got the win,” he said.
Olsen, limited to 23 yards on 17 carries, caught six passes for 142 yards. Fullback Matt Russell led the ground game with 88 yards and a score on nine attempts.
I was really pleased with the way Russell ran the football,” BHS head coach Mark Gibson said.
“They put a lot of guys in the box and their secondary was really aggressive against the run,” Gibson noted.
Gibson said the BHS linemen had a much better game than it did the previous week.
“I thought our offensive line played extremely well tonight,” he said. “… I think all our kids just played hard.”