It’s a whole new ballgame. Yes, Bismarck rolled over Devils Lake 40-6 in the third week of the season.
Yes, Bismarck is the undefeated, top-ranked defending state AAA football champion. Yes, Devils Lake is unranked with a 4-5 record.
And no, none of that has any bearing on today’s quarterfinal playoff game between the Demons and Devils Lake at the Bowl, accoring to BHS coach Mark Gibson.
“The playoffs are a whole different animal,” Gibson warned as he peered ahead to today’s 7 p.m. game. “There is no tomorrow and the pressure becomes greater when things start going bad.”
Ironically, Gibson says Bismarck’s overwhelming success could be a detriment in the playoffs. Only once have the Demons failed to win by at least four touchdowns. That was the 28-7 victory over archrival Century in September. Century is now the No. 2-ranked team in the state.
So Gibson wonders what’s going to happen when the test arrives.
“We haven’t really had a big game recently where we’ve made a lot of mistakes and had to rebound,” Gibson said. “We’ve kind of jumped on teams early and often. ... We haven’t had things go bad, and it’s coming.”
Bismarck played its regular season finale at Williston without starting fullback and linebacker Riley Plant. Gibson said Plant was injured in the previous game with Mandan.
“He has a partially torn bicep. He’ll be a question mark,” the coach said. “If he’s feeling good, he’ll play. ... He’s definitely a main cog and it will be very difficult to keep him off the field.”
Still, Gibson is counting his blessings. “We’re petty healthy outside of (Plant), and for this time of year that’s pretty good,” he said.
BHS takes a 14-game winning streak into today’s game, easily the longest in the AAA ranks. Gibson, who preaches the one-game-at-a-time gospel, will have nothing to do with winning streaks.
“You can’t get wrapped up in that stuff. ... We’re looking at this weekend and that’s it,” he responded. “The only thing we care about is playing well (against Devils Lake).”
Bismarck enters the playoffs with the West Region’s top offense and defense.
The Demons have scored 42.8 points and piled up 384 yards per game, both regional highs. They’ve surrendered 4.2 points and 121 yards per game, also regional bests.
BHS tailback Layne Johs, a quick 210-pound senior, leads the way with 1,515 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns. He’s No. 1 in the region in rushing, scoring and total offense. Quarterback Ben Jolliffe is fourth in the West in passing yardage and eighth in total offense.
Devils Lake ranks fourth in the East Region in scoring offense (15.0) and fifth in scoring defense (27.3).