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Big weekend ahead for AAA football

Jaxon Ford

WILL KINCAID/Tribune BHS Football player Jaxon Ford.

Bismarck Demons football coach Mark Gibson has a juggling act to perform on Friday, and there’s no guarantee he’ll keep all the balls in the air.

Century coach Ron Wingenbach, meanwhile, will be playing a waiting game.

The AAA football playoff field is pretty much set going into the final week of regular season action, but the pairings are anything but certain.

About all that’s known for sure is the top-ranked Demons will be the No. 1 seed from the West. Minot, Century and Dickinson will join BHS in the Oct. 31 quarterfinal round, but the order remains to be seen.

In the East Region, Fargo Davies, defending champion Fargo South, West Fargo and Grand Forks Red River are in. But with three 5-1 teams atop the region, a lot is riding on Friday’s final round of action.

Gibson is trying to figure out how to balance injury risk against keeping his undefeated team’s sharp edge on Friday night at Faris Field. Mandan comes into the game 2-5, but with two straight wins.

“I’m sure they’ll throw everything at us. ... This will be their state championship game,” Gibson said. “We’ve got to be ready. ... We don’t want to stub our toe going into the playoffs, but on the other hand we don’t want to be injured going into the playoffs. It’s a double-edged sword.”

Gibson said his instinct is to err on the side of caution.

“We’re not up to par right now. We’ve got a few guys limping around. ... To be honest the most important thing this time of year is to be healthy. I perceive some of our guys not playing this week,” he said.

Century, 3-2 in the West, 3-4 on the year, is coming off a 54-13 loss to Bismarck. The Patriots will face Williston, 0-5 and 1-6.

If the Patriots can avoid trouble against Williston as they are expected to do, they’ll still have to await the outcome of the late-starting game at Dickinson to ascertain their status.

Minot closes the season at Dickinson. Both those teams enter the game tied with Century at 3-2.

“We have to beat Williston and Dickinson has to lose for us to be No. 2,” Wingenbach said. We can’t finish fourth. Minot or Dickinson will be No. 4.”

It’s not all philosophical stuff, Wingenbach emphasized. The top two seeds from each Region play at home in the quarterfinals, so there’s a home field advantage at stake.

“If you’re second you’re at home, and that’s huge,” he said.

Wingenbach said his team stands at a crossroads going into tonight’s 7 p.m. game at the Community Bowl. The Patriots have a lot of things to correct after last week’s setback, and there isn’t much time to set things right.

“We made some critical mistakes at ill-advised times ... and we’ve got to clean those things up. I thought our effort was there — by no means did our kids quit — but we’ve got to get things squared away as far as alignments and assignments and things of that nature.”

Wingenbach said this is a test of character for the Patriots.

“We’ll see the character of this team ... in the (Williston) game and the preparation for the playoff game,” he said. “... It will show a lot about the type of players we have.”

“If we take the right approach we can learn from that game. ... We can’t give teams a short field and we have to take advantage when we pin them in a hole. ... Those are the things we have to do and that’s the challenge before us.”

In the East, just about everything is still up for grabs following Fargo Davies’ 50-49 upset of top-ranked and defending state champion South last week.

Davies, South and West Fargo all stand 5-1. Grand Forks Red River is in fourth place at 4-2.

On Friday, second-ranked Davies and fifth-ranked Red River meet unranked opponents. Davis visits Fargo North and Red River plays crosstown rival Grand Forks Central. Fargo North stands 3-5 and Central has just one win.

The key game is West Fargo’s visit to Fargo South.

Davies has beaten both teams, so the Eagles need only beat North to claim the top seed from the East.

If Davies wins, West Fargo and South will be playing for the No. 2 seed with Red River fourth. Red River has lost to both South and West Fargo, so the Roughriders won’t be able to slip past either team.

However, North could throw the whole works into a whirl with an upset of Davies.

Then the winner of the South-West Fargo game would emerge as No. 1 at 6-1. The South-West Fargo loser, Davies and, presumably, Red River would have identical 5-2 records.

At that point, head-to-head factors and point spreads would be tossed into the hopper to determine the second, third and fourth seeds. Bear in mind the fact that Red River handed Davies its only regional loss.

Number crunching

There’s a new rushing leader in the West Region. Bismarck tailback Jaxon Ford edged past Minot’s Karter Gorney last weekend, thanks to a 297-yard, three-touchdown performance against Century.

Ford has rushed 117 times for 924 yards and Gorney has 917 yards in 148 carries.

Ford is the runaway scoring leader with 19 touchdowns and 116 points. Gorney is in second place with 11 trips to the end zone and 66 points.

Jamestown’s season ended last week with a 23-21 loss at Mandan. The Blue Jays have a bye this week, so regional leaders Logan Anderson and Ross Monson can only sit and wait to see if their advantages hold up.

Anderson, a junior, leads the region in receiving with 402 yards on 16 catches. Williston’s LeCarl Branch is second, 28 yards back. He’s piled up 374 yards on 28 catches.

Monson, a senior, is the region’s passing leader with 1,159 yards, 162 more than Bismarck quarterback Hayden Gibson.




Region Overall


Bismarck 5 0 7 0

Minot 3 2 4 3

Century 3 2 3 4

Dickinson 3 2 3 4

Mandan 2 3 2 5

Jamestown 2 4 4 4

Williston 0 5 1 6

Wednesday, Oct. 15

Minot 35, Williston 0

Saturday, Oct. 18

Mandan 23, Jamestown 21

Bismarck 54, Century 13

Thursday, Oct. 23

Williston at Century, 7 p.m. CT

Friday, Oct. 24

Bismarck at Mandan, 7 p.m.

Minot at Dickinson, 7 p.m. MDT

Regular season ends

Friday, Oct. 31

Class AAA quarterfinals, TBA

Friday, Nov. 7

Class AAA semifinals, TBA

Saturday, Nov. 8

Class AAA semifinals, TBA

Friday, Nov. 14

Class AAA championships, TBA, Grand Forks

West Region statistics

Offense: 1. Bismarck 53.0 points per game. 2. Minot 25.3. 3. Century 23.3. 4. Jamestown 20.5. 5. Dickinson 19.3. 6. Mandan 15.0. 7. Williston 6.9.

Defense: 1. Bismarck 13.0 points allowed per game. 2. Minot 18.9. 3. Jamestown, 20.9. 4. Mandan 24.3. 5. Dickinson 24.4. 6. Century, 30.9. 7. Williston 33.7.

Individual Offense

Rushing: 1. Jaxon Ford, B, 117-924. 2. Karter Gorney, Min, 148-917. 3. Chris Kraft, C, 115-659. 4. Nick Miller, Man, 112-547. 5. Kass Dvorak, D, 114-501.

Passing yards: 1. Ross Monson, J, 70-171-6, 1,159. 2. Hayden Gibson, B, 68-105-2, 997. 3. Ben Bolinske, Min, 67-130-3, 919. 4. Chris Kraft, C, 55-118-5, 909. 5. Jake Carlson, Man, 56-139-5, 647.

Touchdown passes: 1. Hayden Gibson, B, 16. 2. Ross Monson, J, 11. 3. Chris Kraft, C, 9. 4. (tie) Ben Bolinske, Min, and Jake Carlson, Man, 6.

Receiving yards: 1. Logan Anderson, J, 16-402. 2. LeCarl Branch, W, 28-374. 3, Adam Geiger, C, 24-334. 4. Brayden Lund, Min, 26-306. 5. Jon Tharaldsen, B, 21-278.

Total offense: 1. Chris Kraft, C, 1,568. 2. Ross Monson, J, 1,245. 3. Ben Bolinske, Min, 1,140. 4. Hayden Gibson, B, 1,027. 5. Jaxon Ford, B, 117-924.

Scoring: 1. Jaxon Ford, B, 116. 2. Karter Gorney, Min, 66. 3. Dalton Sanders, B, 60. 4. (tie) Chris Kraft, C, and Ben Hanson, J, 50.

Field goals: 1. Ben Hanson, J, 5. 2. Tony Kostelecky, D, 2.

n NOTE: Mandan’s individual statistics do not include results of the Fargo South game.


Region Overall


Fargo Davies 5 1 7 1

Fargo South 5 1 7 1

West Fargo 5 1 5 3

G.F. Red River 4 2 5 3

Fargo North 3 3 3 5

Devils Lake 1 5 1 6

W.F. Sheyenne 1 5 1 6

G.F. Central 0 6 1 7

Saturday, Oct. 18

Fargo Davies 50, Fargo South 49

W.F. Sheyenne 24, G.F. Central 18

G.F. Red River 53, Fargo North 14

West Fargo 41, Devils Lake 0

Friday, Oct. 24

G..F Red River at G.F. Central

West Fargo at Fargo South

Devils Lake at W.F. Sheyenne

Fargo Davies at Fargo North

Regular season ends

East Region statistics

Offense: 1. Fargo South 47.1 points per game. 2. Fargo Davies 34.9. 3. G.F. Red River 32.7. 4. West Fargo 30.1. 5. W.F. Sheyenne 21.1. 6. Devils Lake 20.6. 7. Fargo North 15.0. 8. G.F. Central 10.9.

Defense: 1. West Fargo, 9.5 points allowed per game. 2. Fargo South 20.5. 3. Fargo Davies 23.2. 4. G.F. Red River 27.1. 5. Fargo North 32.0. 6. G.F. Central 35.9. 7. Devils Lake 37.7. 8. W.F. Sheyenne 40.6.

Reach reporter Steve Thomas at 701-250-8244 or


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