FARGO - Big plays make for spectacular days, and the day couldn't have been better for Bismarck High.
Bismarck came up big when it counted and, as a result, reigns as king of AAA football for the third time in four years.
The Demons secured the 2011 title with a 21-3 victory over archrival Century on Friday at the Fargodome.
Bismarck's victory was unexpectedly decisive. The Demons edged Century 27-19 when the teams met in September.
Bismarck's offense, defense and special teams all took their turns at turning on the juice on Friday.
Typical was the game-deciding third-quarter sequence when a pair of touchdown runs by tailback Layne Johs turned a slim 7-3 edge into a nearly insurmountable 21-3 cushion.
Century's Dominic Neameyer had just booted a 31-yard field goal for Century's points when Bismarck turned things around.
Johs broke off runs of 10 and 17 yards and Ben Jolliffe fired a 37-yard completion to Brett Adam as the Demons marched 85 yards in seven plays to score. Johs closed the deal with a 4-yard scoring run, and Josh Seibel added a conversion kick to put BHS ahead 14-3 with 7:09 left in the third period
Century's next possession came down to a fourth-and-4 punting situation, and head coach Ron Wingenbach rolled the dice.
Ryan Gesellchen took a short snap and came up inches short of a first down on the right sideline as BHS linebacker Thomas Sease smelled out the fake.
Given a short field, Bismarck didn't hesitate. Johs carried three times, darting through a huge hole on the right side for a 38-yard touchdown run on his third try. Another Seibel conversion kick put the Demons in charge 21-3 with 5:02 to go in the third quarter.
"We came within inches several times," Wingenbach said. "When you get to ballgames like this those plays have to be made, and we fell a little short."
That was the end of the line for Century. The Patriots were unable to pick up a first down in their final four possessions against Bismarck's swarming defense.
A long punt return enabled Bismarck to jump ahead 7-0 in the first quarter. Adam's 32-yard punt return set the Demons up at the Century 21 on their first possession of the game. Jolliffe closed the ensuing five-play scoring drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
Nobody had eye-catching statistics for Bismarck's gang-tackling defense, but the Demons held the Patriots to eight first downs and 130 yards total offense.
Johs, who hadn't played for two weeks due to back spasms, was the game's leading ground gainer. He churned out 193 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries.
"Tuesday I felt better and the trainer did some tests on me," said Johs, a 200-pound junior. "... We came into the game hoping to run the ball, and our offensive line stepped up. We relied on our defense to make some big plays, and they made some huge stops for us."
Seibel, a junior cornerback, was in on a team-high eight tackles in addition to his kicking duties. And for good measure he punted once when regular punter Dexter Werner was forced out of the game due to a concussion.
"We knew the defense had to play hard the whole game, and we did that," Seibel said. "... It was one of our better (defensive) games, at least points-wise, and it was against a good team, too. The defense stepped up today."
Seibel, whose game-winning field goal a week earlier propelled Bismarck into the championship game, said the title was an unbelievable experience. "The championship is awesome. ... And the cross-town rivalry makes it an even bigger game."
Coach Mark Gibson, who has led Bismarck to four state championships, lauded his defensive unit.
"Our defense was outstanding. My hat's off to Dale Colby, our defensive coordinator. ... We played against one of the best lines, and our kids played a heck of a game."
"We challenged our defense, and our kids rose to the occasion," Gibson added.
For Century, making its first championship game appearance since 1977, it was a tough loss. But Wingenbach said Friday's setback doesn't negate the whole season. "Nothing can tarnish what this team has done this year. It's been an outstanding year," he said.
Century 0 0 3 0 - 3
Bismarck 7 0 14 0 - 21
B - Ben Jolliffe 1 run (Josh Seibel kick), 8:16.
C - Dominic Neameyer 31 field goal, 10:25.
B - Layne Johs 4 run (Seibel kick), 7:09.
B - Johs 37 run (Seibel kick), 5:02.
First downs 8 18
Rushes-yards 30-81 51-205
Yards passing 49 116
Comp-att-int 5-22-0 6-13-1
Fumbles-.lost 1-1 1-1
Punts-avg. 6-34 2-25
Penalties-yards 3-35 2-15
Rushing: C - Ben Kraft 11-48, Dalton Weisz 8-44, Ryan Gesellchen 3-7, Jared Fischer 8-(minus-18). B - Layne Johs 35-193, Kip Jangula 4-10, Ricky Purtle 6-8, Ben Jolliffe 6-(minus-6).
Passing: C - Fischer 5-17-0, 49 yards; Tyler Rudolph 0-4-0; Gesellchen 0-1-0. B - Jolliffe 6-13-1, 116.
Receiving: C - Andre Maund 4-30, Drew Wiseman 1-19. B - Dexter Werner 3-54, Devin Schirado 2-25, Brett Adam 1-37.
Interceptions: C - Wiseman.
Records: Century 10-2, Bismarck 11-1.
Senior athlete of year: Devin Coyle, Mandan.
Coach of year: Pat O'Brien, Mandan.