Bismarck Demons senior Layne Johs has been through three football games with Century. Riley Plant has faced the Patriots twice.
Each played in last year’s 21-3 victory over Century in the state AAA football championship game. They’ll line up against the Patriots again Friday night. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Community Bowl.
When they look back on their previous encounters with CHS, the BHS athletes don’t speak of how hard-hitting or pressure-packed the contests were.
They talk about how enjoyable the games have been.
“It’s probably the most fun game we’ll play all year,” said Johs, the 210-pound BHS tailback. “... Both teams have had past success so that makes it a little more fun.”
Plant, a two-way regular at fullback and linebacker, has a similar outlook. “The Century game is always a fun game. ... It’s probably our favorite game of the year. But we prepare for it like any other game,” he observed.
Johs was a sophomore defensive back when Bismarck last lost to Century, a 20-14 defeat in 2010.
Last season Plant was in the lineup at linebacker when BHS downed the Patriots twice — 27-19 in the regular season and again in the state title game.
Plant said each Century showdown has long-term implications because both teams are annual West Region contenders.
“You definitely want to make an impact in this game because we’re vying for the No. 1 spot in the West,” Plant said.
Century is Bismarck’s first West Region opponent. The top-ranked Demons, 3-0, have racked up nonregional victories over West Fargo, Fargo Davies and Devils Lake.
The Patriots, 2-1, lost to Fargo South in their opener and bounced back to defeat West Fargo. Last week Century garnered a 20-13 regional victory at Dickinson.
“For us it’s the opening regional game and it’s important to get off to a good start in the region,” Johs said.
The result of Friday’s game carries long-term implications with both teams focused on a return to the state championship game.
“Year-in and year-out both teams are competitive toward the end of the season,” Johs said.
Bismarck owns a 28-11 advantage in the all-time intracity series, which dates back to 1975. The Demons have won four of the last six clashes with Century picking up wins in 2007 and 2010.
Plant said Century can stretch a team’s defense with its balance. The Patriots rank second in the region in passing (148 yards per game). Quarterback Jared Fischer stands second in passing yardage and speedster Drew Wiseman is No. 2 in the region with 225 yards and three scores on nine catches.
Century enjoyed its best rushing effort of the season at Dickinson. Ryan Gesellchen carried 25 times for 132 yards and three TDs against the Midgets.
“It looks like they’ve found their guy. Gesellchen is a good hard runner and our defense has got to step up,” Plant said. “... We’ve got to get everyone going to the ball.”
“They’ve got a good passing game and a pretty good running game,” Plant added. “... We’ve focused a lot on defense this week.”
West Fargo is the only team the Demons have played that remotely approaches the CHS passing game, according to Plant. “Both of them have fast receivers and both have good quarterbacks, but Century’s quarterback is a dual threat. He can run and throw,” he said.
Johs is a returning all-state running back who has picked up 514 yards and scored seven touchdowns in 46 carries. Last fall he dented Century’s defense for 291 yards in 55 carries, including 193 yards in the championship game. He scored four times against CHS.
Although the Demons have had to shuffle personnel in the offensive line, they’ve ground out a regional-best 878 yards rushing.
“It’s meshing,” Johs said of the ground game. “(Right guard) Jaden Friedt was injured for two games and he came up big last week. That definitely helped. ... Right now we’ve got pretty good chemistry but we’ve got to keep improving.”
Bismarck tops the region in total offense (1,175 yards), scoring offense (40.3), total defense (321 yards) and scoring defense (4.3).
Century’s offense is fourth in scoring (23.0) and yardage (843). The Patriot defense ranks fifth in scoring (20.7) and sixth in yardage (828).
Johs said it’s not ideal to play a rivalry game so early, but emphasized the Demons have no choice in the matter.
“It would be nice to play a different opponent in the first regional game, but we’ve just got to prepare and step up,” he said.