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PREP FOOTBALL: Bismarck claims season-opening win over Red River

Red River fullback Zak Kuntz bursts through the line in the first half of the Roughriders' season opener Saturday against Bismarck High School. Korrie Wenzel, Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Devon Pope turns upfield after catching pass for Red River Saturday. Korrie Wenzel, Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

The mostly new version of the Bismarck Demons hog pen showed it can do a ton of damage on Saturday night.

Behind the interior five of Taylor Schaubert, Peyton Reagle, Tristan Hall, Josh Lawyer and Josh Bring, Bismarck rushed for 387 yards and six touchdowns en route to a 55-20 season-opening victory over Grand Forks Red River at the Community Bowl.

“They definitely showed up tonight. The offensive line came out hot and did a good job,” said BHS tailback Jaxon Ford, who rushed for 222 yards and three touchdowns.

“Jaxon Ford was someone we had a hard time tracking down when he broke through the line of scrimmage,” Red River coach Vyrn Muir said. “That was tough for us. We have a speed issue on defense. We don’t have that type of speed to compete with that type of player.”

The game gave no indication in the early going that it would end with a running clock.

Bismarck came out of a 30-point first quarter with a 17-13 lead, courtesy of a 38-yard Hunter Johnson field goal and touchdown runs of 68 and 56 yards by Ford, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound bundle of high explosives. Red River kept close via Derek Murph’s TD pass to Braedan Hanson and a 6-yard scoring run by Mitch Soderberg.

BHS turned the corner in the second quarter as Johnson connected for a three-pointer from 31 yards out and quarterback Jordan Mann ran for a 6-yard touchdown and teamed up with wideout Jack Sullivan for a 59-yard scoring play.

Red River responded with a 62-yard scoring run by Zak Kuntz, but BHS held a 34-20 halftime lead.

Bismarck’s defense and ground game combined to dominate the final 24 minutes.

The Demons ground out 198 yards on the ground after the break and the BHS defense limited Red River to 63 total yards after intermission.

Mann, Ford and Jared Rath put the finishing touches on the victory with second-half scoring runs.

“This is definitely the way we wanted to start out the season. They’re a good football team,” Ford said.

Gibson rattled off several positives.

Among them was the ability to two-platoon, while Red River started seven men both ways. With temperatures in the low 90s at game time, Gibson said keeping players fresh was a high priority.

“That was a key to the game, and hopefully we can continue to do things like that,” Gibson said.

Gibson also pointed to the Demon return game and Johnson’s kicking talents. Johnson scored 13 points with his foot and booted six touchbacks on kickoffs, putting Red River in poor field position.

“We’ve got a weapon there. Our kicking game and return game were critical tonight,” Gibson noted.

Muir said Red River’s defensive problems weren’t the exclusive property of the defensive line.

“I thought for the most part we did play pretty well up front … but the guys on the backside didn’t help us out,” he said.

And Mann, who ran for 62 yards and threw for 118, provided Bismarck with a dimension the Roughriders weren’t expecting.

“We weren’t prepared for a running quarterback,” Muir said.

Red River plays host to Mandan next week before facing Fargo South in its East Region opener. Muir said the Roughriders have a long way to go to be ready for South.

“We did some nice things on offense,” he said, “but we had a lot of guys on defense playing their first game tonight,” he said.

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