Dexter Werner’s fingerprints appear on state championship trophies in three sports. Yet the Bismarck senior will be remembered as a basketball player.
More’s the pity, says BHS head football coach Mark Gibson.
“I think the sky’s the limit in football if he’d chosen that route. We’ve barely scratched the surface,” Gibson said. “... You just don’t see that size and agility in one package.”
Werner, a two-time returning all-state player, has already verbally committed to the North Dakota State University basketball program. Still, he’s a football player, body and soul, until the Demons’ playoff run ends.
Bismarck opens its bid for a third championship in four years Saturday, playing host to Fargo Davies at 1 p.m. at the Community Bowl. The game preceeds Century’s 4 p.m. quarterfinal with Fargo South.
“This is my last year of football and I have several years of basketball left, so I want to try and make the most of it,” Werner said as he looked ahead to the postseason.
Werner is a three-dimensional player for the Demons. He’s a tight end, a defensive end and a punter. At the start of the season he was the BHS placekicker, as well, a duty he’s relinquished to Josh Seibel.
Gibson said it would be hard to say where Werner, a 6-foot-51/2, 240-pound senior, makes the greatest contribution.
“It’s hard to say. He’s very valuable for us all over,” Gibson noted.
As the season has gone along, Werner has become a more pronounced part of the BHS passing game. In the last two games he’s grabbed nine passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns. That includes a 107-yard game against Minot two weeks ago.
In the Bismarck scheme the tight end is primarily a blocker, so Werner has relished the opportunity to add another dimension to the Demon attack.
“Catching the ball is definitely more fun than blocking,” Werner said. “I think coach (Gibson) and I have a tight end-to-tight end bond and that pays off when he’s calling plays. ... It feels good catching passes and it feels good to hit a kid on a block, too. They’re both fun.”
Gibson, who played tight end at BHS and Dickinson State, sees Werner primarily as a lineman.
“He’s getting a little more confidence (as a receiver) down the stretch and we need him,” Gibson said. “But we need him to block. That’s very important to us.”
Gibson believes Werner has the potential to do awesome things on the gridiron.
“He’s one of those kids who can change a game on a dime. He’s one of the most athletic big kids I’ve ever witnessed. ... When he wants to be, he can be unbelievable,” Gibson said.
Saturday’s clash with Davies is a rematch. The Demons took apart the Eagles 48-7 in the second week of the season. Davies received a playoff berth despite a 2-7 record via a four-way East Region tiebreaker.
Werner said there are advantages to playing a team twice as long as the first game doesn’t engender overconfidence.
“It’s nice to be familiar with them. ... We know what things we have to work on,” Werner noted. “... But we can’t base anything this weekend on past scores. We still have to have a good week of practice. We can’t take the week off because we’re expecting to win.”
According to Werner, BHS learned in its first meeting with Davies to expect the unexpected.
“They’re pretty creative offensively. They run a lot of things to try and confuse you,” he recalled. ... They could throw some pretty crazy plays at us.”
Werner has been a year-around athlete since he arrived at BHS.
He’s a three-year letterman and two-year starter in basketball. In track and field he’s a three-time state qualifier and third-place finisher in the javelin. This is his third year of varsity football. He’s convinced that being a multi-sport athlete has made him better in every season.
“All the sports intertwine through the year. A lot of football skills carry over to basketball and basketball skills carry over to football,” he said. “... I’m always in good shape because of the other sports.”
Bismarck enters the playoffs with an 8-1 record that includes seven blowouts and three shutouts. The Demons spent seven weeks atop the AAA poll and finished the regular season ranked No. 1.
Thus far, it’s been a satisfying senior year for Werner.
“We graduated a lot of good guys and people had a lot of doubts,” Werner said. “I think the seniors took it as a challenge, so we tried to lead the team during the season.”
Werner’s role has changed as a senior.
“I’ve had to speak up a lot more ... and as a senior you have to work hard so it makes the younger players want to work hard, too,” he said.
Bismarck has played in the last four state championship football games, winning twice. In the Gibson era, which dates back to 1999, the Demons have played in seven finals, winning three titles. Werner said that tradition is contagious.
“I watched great guys come thorough the program,” Werner said. “... You see those guys working hard and you realize you have to work hard to get there, too, and I’m happy to be there.”
Now that the season has boiled down to an eight-team show, Werner doesn’t think the Demons have to be in awe of anyone.
“With the tradition at Bismarck High a state championship is always the goal,” he observed. “... It’s a realistic goal for us. I think we can get there. We’ve played some good teams and I think we’re of that caliber.”
Bismarck’s only loss was a 20-19 setback at Mandan in the seventh week of the season. Mandan’s lone loss was to Century and Century’s only defeat was at the hands of Bismarck.
Werner said it’s important for the Demons to remember that their best is good enough to get the job done. Miracles are not required.
“We just have to play hard and not try to do anything special,” he said. “We just have to play Bismarck High football just like we have all year.
“When you go into a game thinking you’ve got to do something crazy it doesn’t go well. ... You’ve got to play the way you’re taught.”