Nick Goulet isn’t the fastest man on the Bismarck Demons’ impregnable defense.
At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, he’s certainly not the biggest. Yet he’s probably the key figure on a defensive unit that’s surrendered only 38 points in 10 games.
Bismarck’s offense, built around 1,650-yard tailback Layne Johs, is averaging 42.6 points per game.
The Demons will try to maintain that pace in Friday’s AAA semifinal playoff game against West Fargo at the Community Bowl. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. No. 2 Century visits third-ranked Fargo South in the other semifinal.
BHS coach Mark Gibson would probably rather go a fortnight without changing socks before giving up Goulet for even a quarter.
“The quarterback on offense is awfully important and he’s the quarterback on defense,” Gibson said. “He’s extremely valuable on defense for us. ... He’s extremely intelligent. There’s probably no formation he’s seen that he’s not ready for.”
Goulet, a senior who’s a two-year starter at free safety, says a scouting report on him would read something like “smart on the football field. He uses his smarts and reads plays well. ... I’m not much of a big hitter.”
Gibson said Goulet would probably make a good wideout on offense, but he’s caught just four passes for 36 yards.
“Just like we don’t play our quarterback on defense, we don’t play Goulet much on offense because he’s so valuable defensively,” Gibson said. “We could probably afford to lose anyone but him on defense.”
That’s no problem for Goulet.
“Offense is always fun ... but our defense is fun to play on. It’s a good group to be a part of,” he said.
Goulet has two interceptions on the season, one for a touchdown. He’s racked up 18 solo tackles and 22 assists and broken up 12 passes.
The Demons, meanwhile, have surrendered just six touchdowns and are giving up an average of 125 yards per game. With 24 takeaways, six by interception, BHS has a dazzling plus-19 turnover ratio. Five of those takeaways have been turned into touchdowns.
“We’ve had some defensive touchdowns, which we kind of pride ourselves on,” Goulet said. “We’re taught to fly to the ball and it’s instinctive to try and get the ball. That’s led to some good things.”
Goulet said the defensive unit came into the season expecting to play well.
“We had a lot of returning starters and a couple of guys who are third-year starters,” he said. “But the level at which our defense has been able to perform has been a surprise.”
Five of the six touchdowns the Demons have yielded have come through the air.
As a defensive back, Goulet said that isn’t necessarily a negative statistic.
“It shows we have real good linebackers and defensive linemen who stop the run really well. Most high school teams prefer to run the ball and we’re taking them out of their comfort level and making them pass, which is probably a good thing,” he observed.
Bismarck takes a 15-game winning streak into the semifinals. The defending state champions have been the unanimous No. 1 pick in the statewide AAA poll every week of the season.
No team has scored more than one TD against the Demon defense this season.
“It’s a surprise, but a good surprise,” Goulet said of Bismarck’s season-long domination. “... Coming off a state championship you always want to continue playing well, but you never expect to go out there and win games big.”
Bismarck opened the season with a 29-0 victory at West Fargo, allowing just 56 yards total offense.
The unranked Packers have lost just twice since and stand 7-3 on the year. They edged No. 5 Minot 21-14 in last week’s quarterfinals.
Goulet said that opening game is long gone. He believes West Fargo must be treated as an entirely new team.
“They’re one of the biggest passing threats in the state,” Goulet said. “They have really fast receivers, they’ve found their guy at running back and they have big-play potential. They’re one of the best offenses in the state.”
West Fargo ranks second in the East Region in both points scored (29.7 points per game) and points allowed (12.6).
“I think a lot of people would say West Fargo is one of the most improved teams in the state this year. They’ve become a pretty dangerous team,” Goulet said.