There was no stopping top-ranked Bismarck on Friday. The Demons went to their seemingly bottomless reservoir of big plays time after time to defeat second-ranked Century 36-22 in West Region football.
With the victory on the Bismarck State College campus, BHS upped its season’s log to 5-0 in the West Region and 8-0 overall. Century dipped to 4-1 and 7-1.
Senior quarterback Will Madler led Bismarck’s parade of long gainers, throwing for 267 yards, including completions 30, 83, 65 and 43 yards, two of them for touchdowns.
Joe Jahner, a junior wideout, grabbed four aerials for 187 yards, including scoring strikes of 30 and 68 yards.
Senior tailback Isaiah Olsen took off on junkets of 45 and 26 yards en route to a 137-yard game, and the defense got in on the action, as well. Defensive lineman Canyon Stonecipher blocked a punt, a play that turned into a safety, and had a piece of nine tackles. Linebacker Dyllon Sicble picked off a pass and returned it 46 yards to the Century nine-yard line, setting up the fifth BHS touchdown.
Jahner said the big-play factor was a product of Demon intensity.
“We just came excited, ready to play and confident,” he said. “… We executed everything, so that was good.”
Bismarck coach Mark Gibson felt big plays early turned the game around.
“In big games like this you’ve got to make plays. We thought we could exploit some things in their defense, and we did. … We passed the ball, so we were able to open up our running game,” he noted.
BHS backs, led by Olsen, piled up 203 yards on the ground against a Century defense that had allowed just 48 yards per game, on average.
The Demons did the bulk of their damage in the two middle periods, putting up 14 points in each.
A one-yard quarterback sneak by Madler to cap a 65-yard drive, and the 65-yard strike to Jahner in nthe second period enabled BHS to open a 20-14 halftime lead.
BHS started the second half with a 66-yard march that was capped by Olsen’s one-yard run. Sicble’s long interception return set the stage for a six-yard scoring jaunt by Jared Hager that gave the Demons a 34-14 cushion with 12 minutes remaining.
Century momentarily knotted the game at 14 with a pair of second-quarter scores, one on a 10-yard quarterback sneak by Cade Feeney and the other on a four-yard burst by tailback Grant Anderson.
The other Patriot score was the result of a 56-yard gallop by fullback Nathan Kraft who broke a tackle, bounced outside and took off down the right sideline in the fourth quarter.
With the victory, BHS clinched the No. 1 West Region seed for the AAA playoffs and will almost certainly retain its unanimous No. 1 standing in the statewide media poll. The Demons play host to Dickinson on Wednesday in their regular-season finale.
Century closes out its regular season with cross-town rival Legacy. A loss there would knock the previously unbeaten Patriots to No. 3 in the playoff bracket.
Jahner said Friday’s performance indicates the sky is the limit for the Demons.
“We have something special going on here and we want to keep it going,” he said. “We have the chance to do something big.”
Gibson said the win was indicative of what an inspiring senior class can do.
“We’ve got some senior leadership that get guys ready to go,” he said.
CHS coach Ron Wingenbach tipped his hat, figuratively, to Madler.
“Will Madler had a heck of a game for them. And their receivers are probably better than they look on film,” Wingenbach said.
Wingenbach said Bismarck didn’t win by the use of surprise tactics.
“We could look back at the plays they ran tonight … and it’s nothing we haven’t seen,” he observed. “But they just executed really well.”