Among the oldest clichés in sports — if it's not broke, don't fix it — certainly applies to the unbeaten Century football team.
When the 10-0 Patriots take the field at the MDU Resources Community Bowl tonight against Mandan in the semifinals of the Class AAA playoffs, head coach Ron Wingenbach plans to stick to the script.
“I think the primary thing we’re focused on is to stay on the course that got us to this point in the season,” he said. “We still feel like we have a great running game, and with Cade Feeney at the helm offensively, that gives us an opportunity to put points on the board.”
By any statistical measure, Century has been dominant. They’ve scored 332 points, allowed 82. The Patriots have run for 2,253 yards, while giving up just 658. Turnovers? Century is plus-18, including 13 interceptions. And for good measure, in the first three quarters of their games, the Patriots have outscored their opponents, 274-52.
The low-key, businesslike tone Wingenbach sets, is mimicked by his players, who are focused on results, not rankings.
“I can’t even think of a situation in a team meeting where those types of things have been talked about,” Wingenbach said. “Don’t get me wrong, we set goals and strive to meet those goals. But those things that I think you would describe as secondary or kind of outside things, we just don’t spend time on that.”
This week, Century’s sole focus is Mandan. The Braves (7-3) scored 15 points against the Patriots on Oct. 15, tying the most any team has scored on Century this season. Since the Patriots’ 37-15 win at the Bowl over the Braves, Mandan has not lost.
“Mandan is a much improved football team. They’re on a nice four-game roll themselves,” Wingenbach said. “When you get to this point in the season, you fully expect to be playing a quality football team and Mandan certainly is that.”
Century’s defense, which has playmakers at all three levels, will be tested. Wingenbach singled out the Braves’ standout senior wide receiver Elijah Klein, who will be playing for UND at this time next year.
“Defensively, we have to keep them from getting the big play. They have so many weapons. One of their weapons is 6-7,” Wingenbach said. “(Klein) is a terrific player. He’s a very tough matchup for anybody.”
So far, though, Century has had an answer for everything.
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“Coming into the season, we knew we had speed in the secondary and that we were going to be athletic at the linebacker position,” Wingenbach said. “What has really ended up benefiting us is that we’re fortunate to have some quality depth on the lines. So consequently, we’ve been able to flip some kids from the offensive side to the defensive side and have a pretty nice rotation on both sides of the ball.”
Lucas Schweigert, just a sophomore, has excelled since he started in the state championship game as a freshman against Bismarck High. Schweigert, along with fellow interior linemen Konnor Stordalen and Andrew Leingang, figure to be involved in some industrial strength collisions with the likes of Jaxon Duttenhefer and Danek Vega of Mandan.
“There will be no place for the meek at the line of scrimmage on Friday,” Wingenbach said.
While Feeney, a true dual threat quarterback with 1,150 yards passing and 482 rushing, Cade Garcia (157 carries, 928 yards, 18 touchdowns) and Grant Anderson (103-585, 4 TDs) grab many of the headlines, Century has received stellar play all over the field.
“I look at a guy like Nick Korom who has kind of flown under the radar. He’s played fullback on offense, defensive end and done a really good job on special teams,” Wingenbach said.
Damon Dixon, a senior like Korom, also drew high marks for anchoring the defense from his inside linebacker spot. Dixon also plays along the O-line.
Dixon gets plenty of help from fellow 12th-graders Jace Anderson and Griffin Jensen.
“They really solidified the edges of our defense,” Wingenbach said of Jace Anderson and Jensen.
When the Patriots go to the air, Skyler Riedinger is as dangerous as they come. The senior receiver has 25 receptions, six ending in scores, to go with 534 yards.
Unlike last season, the state championship game will not be an all-West Region affair. However, tonight’s semifinal will be exactly that. The same thing will happen in the other final four game as West Fargo Sheyenne hosts West Fargo at 7 p.m.
“I think anytime you have West vs. West and East vs. East in the semifinals, it’s kind of a mini-championship game,” Wingenbach said. “It should be a great night of high school football. We’re excited and looking forward to the challenge.”