Semifinals await

MHS football seeking redemption against Century

Photo courtesy of Sean Arbaut.  Minot High's Adrian Davis-Aguilar (21) runs in the open field during a high school football game earlier this season at Duane Carlson Stadium. 

Four teams remain in the North Dakota Class 11AAA football playoffs. Minot High School is one of them for the fifth consecutive season after they upset West Fargo Sheyenne 66-37 last week on the road.

The path to the program’s first state title since 1980 doesn’t get any easier.

The three other teams left standing — East No. 1 West Fargo (10-0), West No. 1 Bismarck Century (9-1) and West No. 2 Bismarck High (8-2) — all knocked off the West No. 3 Magicians (7-3) during the regular season.

Minot travels to the Bismarck Community Bowl Friday to face the Patriots for a spot in the Dakota Bowl.

“We are happy to be here,” MHS coach Barry Holmen said. “We have as good of a chance as anybody because we are still playing. We are practicing hard and the kids are excited. We have played Century many times over the years, so we are going to learn from that first experience, hopefully, and hopefully give them a better battle.”

Century handed the Magi their worst loss of the season in Week 6, 38-7. The 38 points given up is the most Minot has allowed in a game this season and the seven points scored is also a season-low.

Since the demoralizing defeat, the Magicians have rattled off a season-high four-game winning streak — going 4-0 in the month of October.

“I think we have progressed and matured,” Holmen said. “We got young kids that are running around who are a little savvier in what we want to try to do. But, we have plenty of improving to do this week. We are working hard on the fundamentals, good angles and gap sound defense. All the things that we preach in Week 1, we are continuing to try and get better at some of those things.”

In the high-scoring affair last week against Sheyenne, Minot looked unstoppable on offense by scoring 66 points — the most points in school history dating back to at least 1975.

Don’t expect that same kind of output on Friday.

“No. That won’t happen, but we need to put some points on the board,” Holmen said. “We have to limit their possessions. They have a very powerful offense and they have the best defense in the West, statistically. It’s going to be quite a challenge to score points against this group.”

The two-time defending state champion Patriots have allowed 112 points this season (11.2 points per game). After dropping its season-opener to nonconference Sheyenne, 16-14, Century ran the table to claim the regular season West Region title outright.

Taking snaps for the Century is senior Jakob Olson with senior running back Casey Foss usually alongside or behind him in the backfield.

“They are a power running team,” Holmen said. “A very mobile quarterback who really has become one of their best running threats. But, he throws a great ball. He is a returning all-state guy, so he is quite a weapon and has a receiving core that is excellent. We will have our hands full.”

While Minot gave up 37 points last week, they can take some solace in facing a different style of offense this week.

“First of all, it’s not option football and that played a part in our struggles last week,” Holmen said. “We have to be better defensively than we were last week, and we are going to be.”

Minot fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter in its defeat to Century earlier this season. At halftime it was 17-7, but 21 unanswered points by the Patriots in the third quarter sealed the outcome.

“We started the game off so poorly,” Holmen said. “We weren’t lining up properly on defense. We had turnovers. We got in second-and-long, third-and-long situations. So, we want to execute our offense better and put them in second-and-long, third-and-long situations on defense.”

The Magi racked up 518 yards of total offense in the convincing showing against Sheyenne.

Senior quarterback Creighton Rudolph threw for four touchdowns and ran for another. The trio of senior running backs — Dylan Danielson, Brett Davis and Adrian Davis-Aguilar — all rushed for over 40 yards with Danielson leading the way with 131 yards. Senior tight end Lofton Klabunde and senior receiver Peyton Lamoureux each caught two touchdown passes.

On defense, it was an 85-yard pick-six by senior lineman Logan Krueger that stole the show early in the fourth quarter. But, they also limited the East Region’s leading rusher Jason Gaulrapp to a single touchdown off a screen pass.

Finding that same explosive offense once again and a sturdier defense will be Minot’s ticket to extending its season one more game.

The state semifinal opening kickoff between Minot and Century is set for 7 p.m. Friday at the Bismarck Community Bowl. West Fargo hosts Bismarck High in the other semifinal. The Dakota Bowl is Nov. 10 at the Fargodome.

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.