Capturing lightning in a bottle is one thing; keeping it there is an entirely different matter. But the Minot Magician football team showed Friday night that it can be done.
For the second week in a row, the unranked Magicians went on the road in the state AAA football playoffs and pulled off an upset.
The top-ranked and previously undefeated Bismarck Demons were the victims on Friday, falling to the inspired Magicians 22-7 at the Community Bowl.
“We’ve had eight quarters of excellent, all-out football,” Minot coach Barry Holmen said. “We’ll see if we can make it four more.”
Those next four quarters will be in Grand Forks against Fargo Davies in Friday’s Dakota Bowl.
Minot was brilliant on defense, limiting a BHS offense that averages seven touchdowns to one score. Both of the Magicians’ second-half touchdowns were set up by key linebacker plays.
With the game tied 7-7, Bismarck started to roll in its first series of the second half. The Demons drove 37 yards to the Minot 43 on eight running plays.
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Then, on second-and-four, senior linebacker Dalton Mitzel filched a Hayden Gibson pass and returned it 36 yards to the BHS 22.
“I did exactly what the coaches asked. I widened and the quarterback threw me the ball,” Mitzel said. “It was a big play because the offense capitalized on it.”
Holmen said Mitzel’s pick was pivotal.
“It felt like they were going to march it down and do what Bismarck does, and Dalton made a great play,” Holmen said.
Minot overcame a holding call to score in six plays.
Hunter Duttenhefer’s sliding catch of a 17-yard Ben Bolinske pass on fourth-and-12 gave Minot a first-and-goal at the Bismarck 7. Two plays later, Bolinske banged in from three yards out. Bolinske connected with Jared Kramer on a broken conversion kick, and the Magicians led 15-7 with 15 minutes to play.
A punt by Bolinske bottled Bismarck up at its own 14-yard line in the middle of the fourth quarter, and the defense came through again.
Faced with a fourth-and-one on its own 35, Bismarck went to its 1,000-yard tailback, Jaxon Ford. Senior linebacker Zach Danelson, unblocked, threw Ford for a five-yard loss.
“No one touched me. I saw my chance and it worked out well for us,” Danelson said.
Minot’s offense again turned opportunist, driving 30 yards in eight plays to open a two-touchdown margin.
The scoring play was a lightning bolt. Facing a fourth-and-five situation at the BHS 15, the Magicians went with a screen pass to keep the drive alive and got the whole tamale.
Hunter Duttenhefer hauled in a Bolinske screen pass and was hit immediately short of the first down. However, he broke the tackle and sprinted down the left sideline to score.
Mason Hoffer’s conversion kick made it 22-7 with 2:01 to play and sealed Bismarck’s doom.
Both teams scored on their initial possessions to forge a 7-7 first-half deadlock.
Bismarck marched 67 yards in 10 plays to take the lead on a seven-yard pass from Gibson to wideout Connor Hellebust.
Minot answered immediately, driving 60 yards in four plays. Tailback Karter Gorney broke a tackle and dashed through the right side for a 50-yard gain to set up the touchdown. Gorney scored standing up on the next play.
With the loss, Bismarck is sidelined short of the championship game for the first time since 2006. Ironically, that year Minot made its most recent trip to the finals.
Friday’s semifinal upset came four weeks after the Magicians lost 50-14 to Bismarck in Minot. That setback left Minot 3-3. The Magicians haven’t lost since.
Holmen said it was significant that the Magicians took the lead in the third period.
“The third quarter is when Bismarck steps on people and we didn’t get stepped on. The last two weeks the whole team has rounded a corner and they’re starting to believe,” the coach said.
Mitzel said the Magicians came out of halftime ready to take care of business.
“The second half we came out with a lot more intensity. We played four quarters, that’s what matters,” he said.
Bismarck coach Mark Gibson emphasized Friday’s outcome was no quirk.
“Minot beat us all over. This is no fluke, no aberration,” Gibson said. “They deserved it.”
Gibson conceded the Demons were error-prone, but said the Magicians took advantage of their opportunities.
“They made some huge plays against us. ... They were a lot more intense than us. They wanted it more than we did. We were outplayed and outcoached.”
“We just short-circuited at bad times,” Gibson added. “Every time we developed some momentum we shot ourselves in the foot.”
Danelson said the Magicians were an entirely different team on Friday than they were a month before.
“We came in here with a different mindset,” he said. “We were here to win and we didn’t back down at all.”
Minot 7 0 8 7 — 22
Bismarck 7 0 0 0 — 7
B – Connor Hellebust 7 pass from Hayden Gibson (Hunter Johnson kick), 9:23
M — Karter Gorney 1 run (Mason Hoffer kick), 7:37
M — Ben Bolinske 3 run (Jared Kramer pass from Bolinske), 2:59
M — Hunter Duttenhefer 15 pass from Bolinske (Hoffer kick), 2:01
First downs 12 13
Rushing 41-131 40-201
Yards passing 97 94
Passing 10-16-0 12-27-1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Punts-avg. 7-31 5-30
Penalties-yards 7-54 7-55
Rushing: M — Karter Gorney 24-110, Ben Bolinske 13-20, Zach Danelson 3-7, Carson Mosser 1-minus 6. B — Jaxon Ford 26-127, Noah DuBord 9-52, Jon Tharaldsen 2-15, Seth Siverson 1-5, Alex Seibel 1-1, Hayden Gibson 1-1.
Passing: M – Bolinske 10-16-0, 97 yards. B — Gibson 12-26-1, 94; Ford 0-1-0.
Receiving: M –Brayden Lund 5-54, Hunter Duttenhefer 4-40, Logan Bischof 1-3. B — Connor Hellebust 3-24, Tharaldsen 2-23, Siverson 2-20, Jacob Schulz 1-11, Ford 2-9, DuBord 2-7.
Interceptions: M — Dalton Mitzel.
Records: Minot 7-3, Bismarck 9-1.
Reach reporter Steve Thomas at 701-250-8244 or email@example.com.