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Bismarck’s Leighton Talmadge has been a key for the Demons defense this season.

When Leighton Talmadge, an athletic 6-foot-6, 220-pound 17-year-old enters a room, the automatic assumption is "basketball player."

Talmadge is quick to dispel that notion.

"I become a different person under the helmet. ... You can do things you can't do legally outside of football," said Talmadge, a senior defensive end at Bismarck High. "I like defense. All you do is hit, get up and hit harder. That's your only goal."

Talmadge also plays basketball and baseball. He was a member of Bismarck's state championship basketball team and state-qualifying baseball team last year.

Football comes first and foremost, however.

"Football has always been my favorite since I was about 4 years old," Talmadge said. "I've played football ever since I could."

That would be since the fifth game when he joined Bismarck's Midget Football League.

He first showed up for varsity football as a 6-5, 175-pound sophomore. "There wasn't much there," he recalled.

But he went to work and last fall started at defensive end as the Demons captured their second straight state AAA title.

"All the training I do is for football," he said. "Not much goes to basketball or baseball anymore."

And the best part of football in Talmadge's eyes is the defensive side of the line. Offense is too detail-oriented for him. His idea of a good time is blowing up offensive plays.

"I'd rather break something than make something," he said.

Last year's unbeaten Demons - seven all-staters among them - left some huge shoes to fill.

Fill them they have. These are not the dominant bully boy Demons of 2009, but they're not puffballs, either. Bismarck takes a 6-2 record into tonight's regular-season finale at Williston, 4-1 in the West Region.

A victory over Williston would give Bismarck, the fourth-ranked team in the state, a share of the regional title along with third-ranked Century.

Century, which has finished its regional schedule, has clinched the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. Bismarck has nailed down the No. 2 spot.

Bismarck's only West Region loss is a 20-14 setback at the hands of Century in its first regional game of the season. Talmadge said that game was a real eye-opener.

"Everyone took that loss to Century personally. ... We all knew we had to get better after that. We weren't ready to play at the level we needed to play. It was a big wake-up call," Talmadge said.

Bismarck turned things up a notch after the Century game, rolling to wins over Dickinson and Jamestown.

Then came the wild 54-33 victory over Mandan and red lights went off everywhere. Mandan threw for 488 yards that night.

"Our defensive backs got challenged and our linebackers got challenged by the coaches," Talmadge said. "... But the defensive backs and linebackers figured it out in the Minot game. They're playing at a high level right now."

Bismarck thumped Minot 38-6 last week.

"That was really a step forward for us - especially on the road," Talmadge said. "Our sophomore defensive backs took the Mandan game personally. They showed they care, too, just as much as us seniors. ... There was basically a personality switch. They were more physical."

Talmadge said the Demons have made great strides since a season-opening 6-0 loss at West Fargo, now the top-ranked team in the state. He insists, however, there's still a huge upside for the guys in maroon.

"We're getting close to where we hoped to be, but we've still got spots where we can get better. We've got to get better every day," he said.

BHS head coach Mark Gibson said Talmadge, one of just two full-time returning defensive starters, had a lot on his plate at when preseason practice began.

"We expected a lot out of Leighton Talmadge. ... He worked hard in the off-season and he's lived up to our expectations," Gibson said.

Talmadge personifies tenacity, according to Gibson.

"It's his motor. He's a kid who can run things down. He's lanky, very tall and very athletic. When he puts his arms up a quarterback has got to throw over a big obstacle," Gibson said.

Bismarck's trip to Williston is one of three regional games tonight. The rest of tonight's West Region schedule has Minot at Jamestown and Dickinson at Mandan. All are 7 p.m. starts.

Century plays host to Fargo North in a 7 p.m. nonregional game.

Mandan, 2-3 in the West Region, and Dickinson, 3-2, will be fighting for its football life. The winner of that game goes into the AAA playoffs as the No. 4 seed from the West behind Century, Bismarck and Minot. The loser is done for the year.

CLASS AAA FOOTBALL

WEST REGION

Region Overall

Team W L W L

Century 5 1 6 2

Bismarck 4 1 6 2

Minot 3 2 5 3

Dickinson 3 2 4 4

Mandan 2 3 4 4

Williston 1 4 1 7

Jamestown 0 5 1 7

Thursday, Oct. 14

Bismarck 38, Minot 6

Century 47, Mandan 6

Friday, Oct. 15

Williston 23, Jamestown 22

Fargo South 28, Dickinson 21

Wednesday, Oct. 20

Bismarck at Williston, 7 p.m.

Fargo North at Century, 7 p.m.

Dickinson at Mandan, 7 p.m.

Minot at Jamestown, 7 p.m.

EAST REGION

Region Overall

Team W L W L

West Fargo 4 0 6 1

Fargo South 3 1 7 1

Fargo North 3 2 4 3

G.F. Red River 2 2 4 4

G.F. Central 1 3 2 6

Fargo Davies 0 5 0 9

Friday, Oct. 15

G.F. Central 38, Fargo Davies 7

Fargo North 18, G.F. Red River 15

Fargo South 28, Dickinson 21

Wednesday, Oct. 20

Fargo South at G.F. Red River

G.F. Central at West Fargo

Fargo North at Century

WEST REGION STATISTICS

TEAM OFFENSE

Team Pts. Rush Pass Total

Bismarck 33.7 296.9 68.1 365.0

Century 28.6 204.2 128.7 333.0

Mandan 27.2 243.1 136.4 379.5

Minot 25.7 231.2 91.5 322.7

Dickinson 17.0 172.4 111.6 284.0

Jamestown 14.5 157.4 58.1 215.5

Williston 9.6 98.5 95.0 193.5

TEAM DEFENSE

Team Pts. Rush Pass Total

Century 11.6 124.0 91.5 215.5

Bismarck 13.1 127.5 133.7 261.2

Dickinson 15.6 159.0 84.5 243.5

Minot 23.2 174.3 108.7 283.0

Mandan 29.4 251.6 106.6 358.2

Williston 29.7 241.4 133.9 375.2

Jamestown 30.6 242.2 94.0 336.2

n NOTE: Scoring, rushing, passing and total yardage calculated for West Region teams on a per-game basis.

INDIVIDUAL OFFENSE

Rushing: 1. Channing Mann, Bismarck, 148-1,305. 2. Billy Binstock, Mandan, 184-1,182. 3. Jonas Tengesdal, Minot, 122-970. 4. Dillon Lange, Bismarck, 67-655. 5. Mitch Ohlhauser, Century, 121-624. 6. Jordan Lynch, Jamestown, 77-538. 7. Carson Wentz, Century, 61-407. 8. Seth Westby, Mandan, 48-396. 9. Ryan Yates, Dickinson, 66-395. 10. Adam Melom, Minot, 49-331.

Passing yards: 1. Devin Coyle, Mandan, 52-115-7, 1,039 yards. 2. Nick Lupo, Dickinson, 62-108-9, 885. 3. Carson Wentz, Century, 65-107-4, 880. 4. Marcus Fearing, Williston, 51-121-7, 695. 5. Max Murphy, Minot, 50-96-4, 653. 6. Tyson Gibson, Bismarck, 44-74-3, 512. 7. Jordan Lynch, Jamestown, 35-94-7, 431. 8. Kameron Wingenbach, Century, 8-27-2, 130. 9. Micah Holmen, Minot, 4-7-0, 68. 10. Jarek Wigness, Williston, 1-2-0, 65.

Touchdown passes: 1. (tie) Devin Coyle, Mandan, and Nick Lupo, Dickinson, both 11. 3. Max Murphy, Minot, 9. 4. Carson Wentz, Century, 7. 5. Jordan Lynch, Jamestown, 5. 6. Marcus Fearing, Williston, 4. 7. Tyson Gibson, Bismarck, 4. 8. Kameron Wingenbach, Century, 2.

Receiving yards: 1. Aaron Janz, Mandan, 29-697. 2. Nate Moody, Dickinson, 33-529. 3. Kameron Wingenbach, Century, 19-289. 4. Michael Nelson, Minot, 26-256. 5. Tyrell Parker, Dickinson, 16-240. 6. Tyler Franca, Minot, 11-200. 7. Derek Anderson, Williston, 11-190. 8. Devin Schirado, Bismarck, 11-170. 9. Mark Zinke, Mandan, 8-166. 10. Erik Ringsak, Century. 20-161.

Total offense: 1. Channing Mann, Bismarck, 1,338 yards. 2. Carson Wentz, Century, 1,287. 3. Devin Coyle, Mandan, 1,223 yards. 4. Billy Binstock, Mandan, 1,182. 5. Jonas Tengesdal, Minot, 970. 6. Jordan Lynch, Jamestown, 969. 7. Nick Lupo, Dickinson, 950. 8. Marcus Fearing, Williston, 933. 9. Max Murphy, Minot, 722. 10. Dillon Lange, Bismarck, 655.

Scoring: 1. Channing Mann, Bismarck, 114 points. 2. Billy Binstock, Mandan, 92. 3. Nate Moody, Dickinson, 62. 4. Carson Wentz, Century, 60. 5. (tie) Dillon Lange, Bismarck, and Aaron Janz, Mandan, both 54. 7. (tie) Tyson Gibson, BIsmarck, and Jonas Tengesdal, Minot, both 50. 9. Jordan Lynch, Jamestown, 48. 10. Adam Melom, Minot, 32.

Field goals: 1. Zack Haakedahl, Century, 2. (tie) Ben Love, Minot, Logan McDowall, Mandan, and Casey Dyer, Williston, all 1.

EAST REGION STATISTICS

Offense: 1. Fargo South 34.0 points scored per game. 2. West Fargo 25.9. 3. Fargo North 23.1. 4. Grand Forks Red River 21.6. 5. Grand Forks Central 19.1. 6. Fargo Davies 7.1.

Defense: 1. West Fargo 9.7 points allowed per game. 2. Grand Forks Red River 13.5. 3. Fargo South 17.1. 4. Fargo North 18.1. 5. Grand Forks Central 26.2. 6. Fargo Davies 44.9.

-Compiled by Steve Thomas

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