BY CHAD DARE
---- — BISMARCK — It didn’t take Bismarck-Henning coach Mark Dodd very long to figure out the key to Saturday’s playoff game against the Hall Township Red Devils.
With the two game films that he’s been able to see, Dodd sees a team that spreads things out and relies heavily on quarterback Taggart Venegas.
“He’s a left-handed quarterback and he has a little bit of an unorthodox throwing motion,’’ said Dodd. “But, he gets the ball out quickly and he has a cannon for an arm.’’
Venegas, a transfer from Peru St. Bede as he led the Bruins to the IHSA Class 3A playoffs a year ago, has thrown for 1,197 yards this season and 14 touchdowns. He has completed 51 percent of his passes (80-of-157) and he has only thrown six interceptions.
“Of the course of the past couple seaons we’ve faced more and more teams using the spread offense and we’ve gotten better at defending it,’’ Dodd said. “We’re hoping that helps us this Saturday.’’
Dodd said the Blue Devils (9-0) will try to get pressure on the quarterback, but he also knows they will also need to cover well.
“He’s a pretty mobile quarterback and he’s just as good throwing on the run,’’ said Dodd, admitting his team just faced a left-handed quarterback in the season finale against Arthur-Lovington. “Hopefully, seeing (Tyler) Schuring last week has helped prepare us for this game.’’
During practice for the second straight week, Bismarck-Henning has called on backup quarterback Dylan Dodd to run the offense.
“It’s kind of nice to have a left-handed quarterback on our roster,’’ said Dodd, referring to his son. “He gave us a good look last week.’’
Even though the Red Devils (6-3) do not have a single back with more than 400 rushing yards this season, they do have four different guys with more than 150 yards and they have 19 rushing touchdowns spread out to five different runners. Jacob Byczynski leads Hall with 352 rushing yards, while Aaron Kerr had 320.
Additionally, Hall has four receivers with more than 170 receiving yards as Collin Aimone is the leader with 19 catches for 333 yards, followed by Zach Urbanski with 16 receptions and 264 yards.
“They are a quick hitting, big-play team,’’ said Dodd, admitting it will be a game of contrasting styles. “We’re going to go with our ground and pound attack.
“It’s going to come down to whichever team can impose their will on the other.’’
The Blue Devils have utilized a three-back attack. Senior Patrick Ganley leads Bismarck-Henning with 1,241 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, while Mo Abbed and Donnie Powell have combined for 1,222 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“We know that Patrick has been a big focal point of our offense, but Mo and Donnie have been doing really well,’’ Dodd said. “If team’s trying to take away one aspect our running attack, we’ve been able to go with the other two guys.
“Last week against Arthur-Lovington, they keyed on Patrick and then Mo and Donnie were able to gash them. Those guys have been very unselfish and they really help each other.’’
Bismarck-Henning, champions of the Vermilion Valley Conference, is looking for its third straight victory in the opening-round of the IHSA Class 2A playoffs. The Blue Devils, who are 5-15 in the IHSA playoffs, have never advanced past the second round.
Hall is out of the Three Rivers Athletic Conference and the Red Devils are 32-16 in the IHSA playoffs, winning Class 3A titles in 1995 and 2001.
Kickoff on Saturday is set for 2 p.m. at Bismarck-Henning High School. The game can be heard locally on WRHK-FM 94.9.
IHSA Class 2A Playoffs Hall Township Red Devils vs. Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils When -- 2 p.m., Saturday Where -- Bismarck-Henning High School Records -- Hall Township 6-3 overall; Bismarck-Henning 9-0 overall Rankings -- Bismarck-Henning is rated No. 7 in the final Associated Press Class 2A poll; Hall Township is unrated On the air -- WRHK-FM 94.9 Last meeting -- First-ever meeting Last week's results -- Hall Township defeated Princeton 55-12; Bismarck-Henning defeated Arthur-Lovington 20-14. Next week's games -- Winner advances to a second-round contest against the winner of Clifton Central and Momence. Statistical leaders Rushing -- Hall: Jacob Byczynski 67 carries, 352 yards, 3 TDs; Aaron Kerr 71-320, 4 TDs; Collin Aimone 28-168, 4 TDs; Taggart Venegas 62-168, 2 TDs. Bismarck-Henning: Patrick Ganley 138 carries, 1,241 yards, 13 touchdowns; Mo Abbed 88-708, 8 TDs; Donnie Powell 45-514, 3 TDs; Gage Foster 25-241, 2 TDs Passing -- Hall: Venegas 80 completions, 157 attempts, 6 interceptions, 1,197 yards, 14 touchdowns. Bismarck-Henning: Dylan Allen 30 completions, 66 attempts, 3 interceptions, 489 yards, 9 touchdowns. Receiving -- Hall: Aimone 19 receptions, 333 yards, 6 touchdowns; Zach Urbanski 16-264, 1 TD; A.J. Gaeta 11-106, 2 TDs; Chris Hammonds 9-172, 2 TDs; Jake Merkel 8-198, 2 TDs. Bismarck-Henning: Braedon Lappin-Pratt 13 receptions, 155 yards, 3 touchdowns; Dustyn Ingram 6-79, 3 TDs; Ganley 4-121, 2 TDs; Chase Swinford 3-82, 1 TD, Powell 3-21. Tackles -- Bismarck-Henning: Lappin-Pratt 30 solo, 52 assists, 82 total; Reid Schendel 18-33 -- 51; Swinford 23-26 -- 49; Jackson Darby 16-33 -- 49; Powell 19-23 -- 42; Dalton Strawser 13-26 -- 39.