DENEGA: Minot-Bismarck winner will be the winner on Nov. 13
One versus two.
They’re always coveted, must-see matchups.
And this week is no exception.
This Friday at 7:30 p.m., the best two teams in the Class AAA football – No. 1 Minot High and No. 2 Bismarck – will battle for position in the West Region standings.
And the winner will not only have a leg up in that regard, but will also be the odds on favorite to win the state title.
Whoever wins on Friday will go on to fulfill those expectations and win the Dakota Bowl.
The East Region is down this season, and it’s no secret. The best team out of the East, West Fargo, fell to both Minot and Bismarck in the opening two weeks of the season. The Packers lost at Minot 20-12, and at home to the Demons 25-18. The reigning state champions, Fargo Davies, got blanked by a Dalton Feeney-less Century team to start the season – 21-0 – and has just recently scraped its way back to the .500 mark. On Sept. 4, Fargo South also fell to a Century team missing its best player, 14-10. West Fargo Sheyenne, while being a nice story at 4-2, is just that a nice story and nothing more. The Mustangs fell at home 30-0 to West Fargo on Sept. 11.
The champion in the state of North Dakota will come out of the West, and it will be decided on Friday night.
The West Region this season resembles the Southeastern Conference in college football. From 2006 to 2012, the SEC won all seven national titles. Why? Because teams that emerged out of the gauntlet that is the SEC were the most battle tested. And those teams were the most battle tested because their conference was so balanced with great talent.
The same can be said about the West Region in North Dakota. Rarely can a team take a week off, because behind Minot and Bismarck, there are plenty of sturdy hurdles.
Dickinson can run the ball as well as anyone behind Tyrell Harris. Century, with the return of Dalton Feeney, is scary good. The Patriots proved that with a demolition (45-21) of previously unbeaten Dickinson last Friday. Mandan is solid, as it has wins over Century, albeit without Feeney. And behind the playoff contenders, you have teams like Jamestown, which can be thorn in the side. The Blue Jays almost snuck up and shocked Dickinson, and pushed Minot for a half.
So, getting back to the point of Minot and Bismarck, the class of this very competitive West Region.
Bismarck is going to come into this game on Friday very motivated to avenge last year’s state semifinal defeat to the Magicians. Minot experienced the same kind of motivation when it hosted Century two weeks ago, a team that beat the Magi in 2014. The Magicians were ready to play, throttled Century to the tune of a running clock and a 35-7 victory.
Now, Bismarck won’t get a running clock against Minot, but the Magicians have to be very careful. They not only have a target on their back as the No. 1-ranked team. They’re also facing a Bismarck team hell bent on revenge, a team hoping to prove its earlier loss to Dickinson was a fluke.
“I’m sure (Bismarck) has had this one marked on their calendar,” Minot High coach Barry Holmen said.
It should be an entertaining game, and though the calendar will only read Oct. 10, Friday’s winner will already have one hand on the Dakota Bowl trophy.
This is the opinion of John Denega, a Minot Daily News staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @JohnDenega_MDN.