Bruins, Demons put rivalry on hold for Badlands BowlDeon Paulson wouldn’t have given a second thought to smashing Griffin Neal into the Alerus Center turf during last November’s Class 3A state championship football game.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Deon Paulson wouldn’t have given a second thought to smashing Griffin Neal into the Alerus Center turf during last November’s Class 3A state championship football game.
However, on Saturday, the 305-pound lineman from Bismarck High will be doing everything he can to keep the opposing defense away from Fargo South’s 6-4 quarterback.
This week, five players and three coaches from state champion Fargo South and three players from Bismarck High are in Dickinson preparing to lead North Dakota against Montana in the Badlands Bowl all-star game.
“When we decided to take players for this game — it doesn’t matter what coach — Fargo South players and Bismarck High players are always going to be at the top of the list,” said South head coach Troy Mattern, who is at the helm of North Dakota’s team this season. “They’ve been in the big games. They understand what it takes to compete in the big games. They’ve been there and done that.”
The Bruins and Demons have met for in last four Class 3A state championship games, each winning twice. South won last season, 28-14.
South has been to seven consecutive state championship games.
“It’s always a big rival during the season, but it’s fun to get to know them,” said South wide receiver Brock Larson. “When you play them, you don’t get to meet them.”
Paulson, an all-state first team lineman, said he likes playing with the South players — and learning how the Bruins run their systems.
“It’s kind of cool to combine and mix together with them,” said Paulson, who is going to the University of Mary in the fall. “It’s really fun getting to meet different people, blocking for different people and learning new plays, what they do with their offense. It’s pretty neat.”
White helmets with the Bruins’ brown paw on the side and maroon helmets with the cartoon Demon on them have been common sights at the Badlands Bowl since the game’s inception.
But in the past few years, the guys wearing them have played big roles.
In 2007, South faces were plentiful and it led to success as the Kevin Feeney coached and Brandon Larson quarterbacked North Dakota team beat Montana 30-21.
Last summer, Bismarck running back Jake Miller broke the game’s rushing yards record and safety Nick Jolliffe had a game-sealing interception as North Dakota claimed a 41-38 win.
This year, North Dakota will run South’s offense with Neal and Bismarck Century’s Carson Wentz sharing time at quarterback. The Bruins’ North Dakota State-bound receivers, Andrew Okland and Larson, will likely be their main targets.
“All the guys meld together and just want to play,” Neal said. “Everyone has got the heart to win.”
18th annual Knights of Columbus Montana-North Dakota all-star high school football game
6 p.m. Saturday
At Denton Field, Miles City, Mont.
Radio: KDIX, 1230 AM