Final-play stop gives Bismarck 3A football title
FARGO — Bismarck High didn’t make a lot of stops against Bismarck Century Friday in the North Dakota Class 3A state championship football game at the Fargodome. But it made the plays when it had to.
The Demons broke up a fourth-down pass on the last play of the game to hold on for a 21-16 win over the rival Patriots, who marched 70 yards in the final three-plus minutes to get in position to try to come back from a 14-0 deficit.
Bismarck scored on its first two offensive possessions and got a pick-six in the third quarter, and that was all it needed to beat the Patriots for the third time in four championship-game meetings. The unbeaten Demons also won the regular-season meeting this season against the Patriots.
Bismarck quarterback Will Madler completed 17 of 21 passes for 185 yards and two scores. Isaiah Olsen ran for a team-high 54 yards in a game where yards were hard to come by.
The Demons again relied on their defense when they needed it most. Century started three possessions inside the Bismarck 10-yard line. But 11 plays netted just six yards and a field goal.
“There were a lot of times when we bent but we did not break. That’s a credit to our kids,” Bismarck coach Mark Gibson said. “A lot of things went against us, but that’s a tribute to our kids.”
With the running game limited to just 39 yards in the first half, quarterback Will Madler guided two scoring drives – including a Dakota Bowl record-tying 99-yarder. He threw for 126 of his yards in the first half.
When the Demons needed to burn yards and the clock, Madler led a time-consuming 16-play, 6 minute, 30 second drive.
Century quarterback Cade Feeney responded with another march to the goal line as time was running down. On fourth down, he pitched the ball and wheeled into the end zone where Mason Peterson tried to complete a difficult pass that was broken up as time ran out.
Feeney was 8-for-13 for 150 yards and ran 23 times for 87 yards. Neither he, nor the Patriots, could solve the goal-line issue.
“Until you see the film there are lot of ifs and buts, but those are our bread-and-butter plays,” Century coach Ron Wingenbach said. “The first one when we had the ball inside the three came back to haunt us.”
Bismarck’s offense and defense stood out early. The Demons took the opening kickoff and marched 70 yards for the go-ahead score. Olsen caught a swing pass from Madler and scored from 18 yards out.
When a fumbled punt return set the Patriots up at the Demons’ 1-yard line, the defense stiffened. Three running plays netted zero yards and on fourth-and-goal, Nathan Kraft was stopped short of the goal line.
Bismarck took over and drove 99 yards the other way to take a 14-0 lead on Joe Jahner’s 34-yard TD catch from Madler. The drive tied the record for the longest set by Killdeer in 1995.
Century mounted its only scoring drive of the first half in the second quarter. It marched as far as the Demons’ 5 before again being denied the end zone and settling for Austin Underhill’s 25-yard field goal with 1:25 to play in the half.
The Patriots found a spark in the locker room at halftime and came out of the break. A seven-play drive covered 74 yards and Feeney scored on a 2-yard run to cut the deficit to 14-10.
Defensive back Matt Trolliey extended the Demons’ lead to 21-10 with a 30-yard interception return late in the third quarter. Trolliey jumped an out-route pass from Feeney to Treyton Mattern and coasted into the end zone.
If the Patriots were down about the sudden turn of events, it didn’t show. Instead, they went 76 yards in five plays to make it 21-16 on Kraft’s 5-yard run. The big play was a 37-yard Feeney-to-Mattern pass down to the 5.
The Patriots threatened later, but there would be no more scoring.