Just one more good carry last week and senior fullback Kip Jangula would have had his first 100-yard game at Bismarck High.
Alas, it was not to be. Jangula contributed 90 yards in 11 carries to Bismarck's miraculous 32-30 victory over Mandan in the AAA playoff semifinals.
You can bet the ranch Jangula won't get anywhere near the 100-yard mark in tonight's 6:30 state championship game against archrival Century in the Fargodome.
No problem, says Jangula, a 5-foot-10, 180-pounder. He realizes the tailback is the focus of the Demon running game.
"You always want the ball, but the tailback is who the ball goes to. I've just got to block for him," Jangula said.
"Carrying the ball really isn't my job," he added. "... If I can make a nice block downfield and see the tailback go for a touchdown I get just as much satisfaction in that as if I scored it myself."
Bismarck has been a regular visitor to the end zone this season, averaging a state-best 42.4 points per game.
Tailbacks Layne Johs (1,174 yards) and Ricky Purtle (754) have combined for 1,928 yards and 36 touchdowns, enabling the Demons to average 268.2 yards on the ground per game.
Jangula said it will not be easy to even approach those averages against Century.
"They have a very big line and experienced linebackers," he said. "Our offensive line has to play their best if we're going to move the ball."
Century averages 246 on the offensive line and 251 on the defensive line. All-state 275-pound senior Conrad Schwarzkopf anchors the line on both sides of the ball.
Bismarck averages 242 on the offensive line and 218 on defense. When the Demons want to beef up on defense they insert 260-pound Zac Scalzo.
BHS has limited opponents to 11.8 points and a regional-best 171.4 yards per game this season. Century leads the West Region with a 11.4 defensive average.
A key to Bismarck's defensive prowess has been a knack for generating takeaways. The Demons have 30 takeaways on the year for a plus-22 takeaway-giveaway ratio.
"If we can get the turnovers and capitalize on them it will be huge. Our defense has done really well with turnovers, and the offense hasn't turned the ball over hardly at all," Jangula said. "We just need to do that again in one last game."
Jangula can speak about defense with some authority. He played mostly at linebacker last season, sharing time at fullback with Talon Johnson and Tyler Vogel. This year he's been primarily a fullback, averaging under five plays a game on defense.
When Bismarck and Century clashed eight weeks ago, the result was an intense, physical game. Jangula expects nothing less tonight.
"It was high-action the whole game. Both teams played very well, but our defense made the stops they needed to make in the second half," he recalled.
Getting a rematch with Century for the state championship adds a little extra zing to tonight's matchup, according to Jangula.
"Since it's Century, winning would be just that much sweeter. It's a cross-town rivalry and this is the first time we've played in the final game since forever," he said.
Jangula said tonight's showdown is exactly the type of thing athletes dream about.
"It's what you work for the whole season - for your whole high school career," he said.
Considering the team's improvement throughout the season, Jangula said Bismarck's best football remains in the offing.
"I think our best game is still to come. I'd like to see what we can do if we play to our full potential."
Jangula played on the kickoff steam as a sophomore when Bismarck won its most recent championship in 2009, but he's eager to finish on a high note.
"It's my senior year so I want to out big," he said.
Bismarck coach Mark Gibson said his team will be much healthier this week than it was for last week's semifinal. Johs, who has missed three games due to back spasms, has gotten the go-ahead to play.
"We believe Layne Johs will play. To what extent we don't know," Gibson said.
Scalzo, who was out last week with a strained knee, is also expected to return to action.
Bismarck's No. 1 ranking and previous victory over the Patriots notwithstanding, Gibson can't envision BHS as a favorite over Century.
"I look at them as the favorite because of how big they are, they don't have any weak spots and they're healthy," he said
Gibson said the equalizer will have to be takeaways.
"We have to find a way to make the field shorter," he said. "We're not going to be able to line up and make 80 or 85-yard drives against those guys. If we make a mistake and give them a short field, we're in trouble."