The answer to the question is "never."
Since the introduction of the current football playoff format in 1975, neither the East nor the West had put four teams in the AAA semifinals.
One region or the other advanced three into the semis on several occasions, but a clean quarterfinal sweep didn't come along until this year.
Any Bismarck-Mandan high school football fan who didn't relish the just-completed season will be sorry. It could well be decades before we see another like it.
I've witnessed hundreds of high school football games over the years, and never experienced anything like those AAA semifinals a couple of weeks ago.
My colleague, Michael Weber, covered Century's 14-13 victory over Minot, and it made me a bit jealous to watch the final seconds of that game unfold.
"How can my game top that?" I asked myself.
Well, Bismarck and Mandan then unveiled their 32-30 classic. The final three minutes were thick with drama, and the game wasn't decided until after the time on the clock had expired.
Bismarck, Century and Mandan all posted nine or more victories, combining for an amazing 30-5 mark. They inflicted all five of those losses on one another, including Bismarck's 21-3 triumph over Century in the state championship game.
Even the weather cooperated. There will be no stories of Snow Bowls when people remember the phenomenal season of '11.
In years to come, when we recall the wonders of the 2011 season, it's almost a given that people will accuse us of embellishing. But there's no need to indulge in hyperbole. The simple facts are enough, and we were there.
Bismarck reached the championship game for the fifth straight season and captured its third title in five years. Century advanced to the final for the first time since 1977 and Mandan enjoyed its best playoff run in more than six decades. The Braves captured three straight state grid crowns in 1946, 1947 and 1948.
While the AAA season was hotly competitive on the local scene, there were few accompanying statistical fireworks.
Mandan receiver Aaron Janz made the biggest noise in the West Region, grabbing 42 passes for 920 yards and 13 touchdowns.
That moves Janz into third place on the Tribune's statistical honor roll, which extends back to 2000.
Janz's battery mate, quarterback Devin Coyle, connected for 18 six-pointers. That gives him a share of fourth place for touchdown passes. Both Janz and Coyle are part of Mandan's brilliant senior class.
Layne Johs, Bismarck's junior tailback, scored 28 touchdowns and racked up 170 points for fourth place on the honor roll.
Johs also pounded out 1,367 yards in 206 carries, a pace that would have put him in the top five had he not missed two games with a nagging back problem. Nonetheless, he bounced back to haul the ball 35 times for 193 yards and two touchdowns in the state final.
A tip of the hat to the coaches and players. We may never see its equal, but one season like 2011 is enough for a lifetime.
Tribune Honor Roll
Rushing: 1. Channing Mann, Bismarck, 2,219 yards (2010). 2. Weston Dressler, Bismarck, 2,139 (2003). 3. Derek Kinnischtzke, Bismarck, 1,738 (2000). 4. Derek Kinnischtzke, Bismarck, 1,692 (2001). 5. Tyson Schatz, Minot, 1,679 (2006).
Passing: 1. Zach Wentz, Century, 2,227 yards (2007). 2. Alex Hanson, Williston, 2,161 (2008). 3. Trey Nadeau, Mandan, 1,720 (2009). 4. Hunter Johnson, Century, 1,710 (2008). 5. Jordan King, Minot, 1,678 (2003).
Touchdown passes: 1. Alex Hanson, Williston, 23 (2008). 2. Zach Wentz, Century, 21 (2007). 3. Mike Salwei, Bismarck, 19 (2001). 4. (tie) Kenyon Wingenbach, Century (2003), Devin Coyle, Mandan (2010), and Coyle (2011), all 18.
Receiving: 1. Jake Caufield, Minot, 1,066 yards (2003). 2. Nate Schlosser, Century, 933 (2007). 3. Aaron Janz, Mandan, 920 (2011). 4. Jeff Skadeland, Williston, 907 (2008). 5. Jordan Piatz, Jamestown, 887 (2008).
Total offense: 1. Alex Hanson, Williston, 2,747 yards (2008). 2. Zach Wentz, Century, 2,598 (2007). 3. Channing Mann, Bismarck, 2,285 (2010). 4. Weston Dressler, Bismarck, 2,184 (2003). 5. Hunter Johnson, Century, 2000 (2008).
Scoring: 1. Weston Dressler, Bismarck, 242 points (2003). 2. (tie) Jake Miller, Bismarck (2009), and Channing Mann, Bismarck (2010), both 192. 4. Layne Johs, Bismarck, 170 (2011). 5. Derek Kinnischtzke, Bismarck, 156 (2000).
Field goals: 1. Will Kucera, St. Mary's, 8 (2002). 2. (tie) Brandon Keller, St. Mary's (2000), and Zac Elgie, Minot (2005), both 7. 4. (tie) Tom Kirchoffner, Century (2000), Reggie Stecher, St. Mary's (2004), and Zach Reisenauer, St. Mary's (2008), all 5.
When a brand new high school wrestling season kicks off tonight it will be anything but the same-old same-old.
The old sport will have a new look, both in the rulebook and on the mat.
With a change in the 14 weights, the National Federation has made wrestling a bigger boys' sport.
Since 1988 the 14 weight classes have been 103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189, 215 and 285 pounds. The upward shift still calls for 14 weights, but they've been modified to 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 200 and 285 pounds.
Essentially, a weight class has been shifted from the middle to the top. Last year there were four weights from 170 on up. Now there will be five.
Obviously there was little or no thought given to small-school programs when the new weights were proposed and approved. Many Class B schools had trouble filling the upper weights with the previous classifications. That problem has been enhanced under the new (ahem) improved plan.
With the new weights comes a new competitive situation. For decades, powerhouse wrestling teams have primarily resided in the BHS wrestling room.
Not so this season. West Fargo, which finished just 2.5 points behind the Demons at last year's state tournament, returns tons of firepower.
The Packers return 11 wrestlers who tallied 190 points last winter. Bismarck is way, way back in second place with seven returning placers and 93 returning points.
Obviously, it's going to take some doing for Jeff Schumacher and Scott Knowlen to add to Bismarck's collection of 32 state tournament and 11 state dual titles.
Completing the top five in the returning point count are Williston with 81, Turtle Mountain with 74 and Valley City with 64.5. Century is seventh with 55, Mandan stands eighth with 53.5 and St. Mary's ranks 16th with 19.
Only five individual champions return in Class A, four of them from West Fargo. The defending champions are Jordan Shearer (103), Trevor Kringlie (112), Anjelo Shepherd (125) and Preston Lehmann (171) of West Fargo and Ryan Blees (130) of Bismarck. Shearer is shooting for a third title and Shepherd has his sights set on a fourth championship. Shepherd garnered his first two crowns while wrestling for Fargo North.