Ranked gridiron clash: No. 4 Minot High braces for No. 2 Century

Over halfway through the regular season and the playoffs fast approaching, a foreshadowing of what’s possibly ahead will be on display tonight at the Bismarck Community Bowl.

The newly ranked No. 4 Minot High football team heads into enemy territory with hopes of repeating last season’s upset victory over the now two-time defending state champions and No. 2-ranked Century.

“We respect them completely, but we don’t fear anyone,” MHS coach Barry Holmen said. “We are going to go down there with every intention to win the game. We prepare to win the game. We get an extra day, so it’s been a long week in that regard by playing on a Saturday night. But, that extra day means more prep and hopefully we are ready to roll.”

The Magicians (3-2, 2-1 West Region) had some friendly game film to review over this past week, having knocked off Century 28-10 in their previous Week 4 meeting last season.

Minot scored a touchdown in each quarter of that contest with now-senior Lofton Klabunde reaching the end zone twice on an 8-yard fumble recovery and a 4-yard touchdown catch.

“Last year, we stepped up on their homecoming,” Klabunde said. “They are always a tough opponent. A rival of ours, but they are always fun to play. If we come down and play our game, trust our teammates and do our own job, then we will be fine.”

The Magi shut out previously ranked No. 4 Legacy on their homecoming last week, 36-0.

“We are starting to play better as a unit,” Holmen said. “We created some turnovers early in the game (against Legacy) and that was certainly a big factor in the outcome. I think as long as we continue to trust each other, handle our responsibilities and play hard, we’ll keep expecting more from our defense.”

The week prior, Minot blanked Williston 28-0 on the road.

While eight scoreless quarters are nothing to scoff at, Century (4-1, 3-0 WDA) currently holds a streak of 10 scoreless quarters with a second-half shutout of Mandan and wins over Dickinson (34-0) and Williston (41-0).

Something must give tonight to get a winner.

But, if the trend does continue for one team, it should be noted that three shutout wins in a row hasn’t happened for either program since at least 1975. Historical data is not available beyond that point.

Century has only given up 31 points this season and just 7 points in West Region games. Minot, for comparison, is averaging 20.6 points against per game this season even after back-to-back shutouts.

“They just line up and play a balanced defense,” Holmen said. “Tricks don’t beat them. We have to play well, control the line of scrimmage and be diverse. We got to dip it out wide once and while, take shots over the top and hopefully a little play-action will help as well.”

All things that Minot has improved on, especially over the last two weeks.

Holmen sparingly ever dips into or, better said, needs his bag of tricks. But last week in a 4th-and-short situation, he did dial up a deep pass from senior quarterback Creighton Rudolph to senior wideout Peyton Lamoureux for a touchdown.

Plus, Century certainly hasn’t already forgotten about getting beat 14-10 on a Magicians’ trick play — a last-minute halfback pass from Jacob Holmen to Brady Lampert — back in 2013.

Mind games at its finest if anything out of the ordinary surfaces tonight.

“We watch film and watch a lot of what they do,” Holmen said. “They are not going to change a lot of their schemes. They are very well coached and not a lot of tricks.”

Minot’s defense will be tasked with slowing down senior quarterback Jakob Olson, a host of playmaking receivers and at least a trio of running back in senior Cade Rauser, senior Casey Foss and junior Nathan Kraft.

“Covering their running backs, they are pretty good,” MHS senior lineman Hunter Swartwout said was going to be his biggest challenge. “Just got to wrap up, tackle well and I think we should be good.”

Century (89 points scored) and Minot (78 points scored) have the two highest scoring offenses in West Region games this season. In all contests, Minot is averaging 31.4 points per game with Century close behind at 29 points per game.

“I think they are a lot like us,” Holmen said. “They present a lot of problems offensively because they are diverse too.”

Kickoff in Bismarck is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Century’s Senior Night.

Earlier in the afternoon at 2:30 p.m., the Minot State football team faces the University of Mary at the Bismarck Community Bowl in the NSIC Game of the Week and Battle of the Big Lake Trophy.

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