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Shawn Jenner Football
Bismarck High School Lineman Shawn Jenner has helped anchor the Bismarck offensive line. WILL KINCAID

When you wear a number like 74, fame is not your middle name.

That's the way this strange beast called football works. The biggest guys on the field are often the most inconspicuous.

You won't hear Bismarck offensive tackle Shawn Jenner complaining, however. As long as the big senior's Bismarck High teammates and coaches know the score, it doesn't bother him that hardly anyone in the stands knows he exists.

"We get our recognition. It comes in other ways for us," said Jenner, a 6-foot, 290-pounder. "... When the backs give us credit, that feels good, and after a long drive you get the reward of scoring."

Jenner and his Bismarck teammates will be out to make that happen frequently tonight at the Community Bowl. The top-rated Demons take on fourth-ranked Minot (3-1) in a 7 p.m. homecoming game to open West Region play. Bismarck takes a 15-game winning streak into the contest.

Jenner, a lineman since his first down of football at Simle Middle School, said he's never worried much about getting pats on the head. He looks upon football as a team game and sees the offensive line as a team within a team.

"We are a team as a whole, but as an offensive line you've got to come together and be on the same page," he said. "We help each other out."

Jenner and his partners up front have played well en route to Bismarck's 4-0 start. The defending champion Demons, the only unbeaten team in AAA, are averaging 272.5 yards per game on the ground. That's more than 40 yards per game ahead of the pace Bismarck set en route to an 11-1 record and last year's state title.

There was no guarantee that would be the case when it came time for the Demons to defend their championship. Jenner was the only underclassman in the offensive line last fall, which left a lot of question marks to bedevil the Bismarck coaching staff during the offseason.

Jenner, however, saw things coming together months ago.

"During the summer we have workouts and everyone in the offensive line worked hard in the weight room all summer," Jenner said. "You could see they had the heart and wanted to play. Farther down the road I could see it start to come together during the (summer) camps, and even more once the season started."

Jenner, the right tackle, is one of just two seniors in the offensive line. The other is Josh Page, the 210-pound left guard whom coach Mark Gibson calls the piglet among the hogs.

Right guard Nick Nelson, a 255-pound junior, provides some veteran presence. He was a starter in the defensive line as a sophomore and plays on both sides of the ball this year.

Rounding out the front six are 290-pound junior left tackle Deon Paulson, 230-pound junior center Dan Daffinrud.

At BHS, where the run is king, Jenner said the tight end warrants inclusion as an honorary grunt. That would be 200-pound junior tight end Mack Keller.

"He's one of the hoggies," Jenner said.

While his job hasn't changed much, Jenner said his role is different this season.

"This year, as a senior and a returning starter, it's kind of like I'm leading the offensive line," he said. "... It involved getting the linemen ready for the game and making sure they all know their assignments and are ready to go."

However, Jenner shies away from the idea that he's in charge. "I don't see it that way," he said. "It's not like I'm better than anyone else. ... (But) somebody has got to help lead them and make sure they know what they're doing like (Eric) Klein and (Tyler) Karel did last year."

To be effective, Jenner says offensive linemen need to develop a unique camaraderie.

"A lot of it is being close," he noted. "... When you see everyone is on the same page and gets along it shows that they'll lay it on the line for the guy next to them. And if you work hard together something good is going to come out of it."

No kidding. With the hogs providing the holes, the BHS offense has racked up 20 touchdowns in four games, eight of them on runs of 40 yards or more. Five of those runs have been by speedy all-state tailback Jake Miller.

"When we open holes for Jake Miller, he makes us look good," Jenner said. "If the littlest hole is there, he hits it and he goes."

Minot's attack is built around the twin rushing threats of Donte Smart and Jonas Tangesdal, who have combined for more than 1,000 yards on the ground. Bismarck can counter with the West Region's top-ranked scoring, rushing and total yardage defense.

Although Minot ranks fourth in the region in scoring defense, it ranks second in yards surrendered.

Jenner expects the Magicians to show up ready to play, and play hard.

"It's a really big game," Jenner said. "... They're a big, physical team, and they're going to bring it. We've got to match them and bring it, too."

Jenner acknowledges that a Bismarck-Minot contest carries with it a special intensity in almost any sport.

"They're good at pretty much all of their sports," he said. "They've got good teams and it's a war. It's a battle."

n NOTES: The West Region finished with a 12-9 edge in nonconference games with the East Region. Bismarck, Century and Minot accounted for 10 of the West's 12 wins over the East. ... Top-rated Bismarck is in the midst of a four-game run against ranked opponents. The Demons have defeated No. 2 Fargo South and No. 5 Grand Forks Central in their last two games. They play No. 4 Minot tonight and No. 3 Century looms ahead next week. ... Bismarck has won its last two encounters with Minot but over the last 10 years the Demons hold a narrow 6-5 edge. The Demons lead the all-time series 48-31-7.