BY AARON PATTERSON email@example.com
---- — BISMARCK — Exactly 300 days had passed since the Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils had last been on their home football field. The memories of the Nov. 3 7-6 playoff loss to DuQuoin weren’t exactly fond, and after losing so many key players from the 2012 squad, question marks loomed for the defending Vermilion Valley Conference champions.
But any question marks that existed prior to Friday’s season opener against Martinsville were quickly changed to exclamation points as the Blue Devils dominated the Bluestreaks 48-6. It was the 14th consecutive regular-season win for Bismarck-Henning, and it only took one half to complete.
Just as the two teams were set for the second half kickoff, the officials stopped the game because of lightening. After a 32-minute delay, the game was officially called, and the Blue Devils picked up their first win in their quest for another VVC title.
“If you’re in this game long enough, you see just about anything,” Bismarck-Henning coach Mark Dodd said. “I’m pleased with our kids; first game and there were a lot of new guys out there. We executed the offense pretty well, and really, didn’t have too many first-game mistakes or blunders.”
Instead, it was the Blue Devils forcing the Bluestreaks into making mistakes.
On the very first drive of the game, Bismarck-Henning’s Patrick Ganley picked off a Matt Piehl pass that eventually led to a 28-yard touchdown run by Dustyn Ingram. Ingram was one of seven different Blue Devils to reach the end zone as Bismarck-Henning lit up the scoreboard despite possessing the ball for just over eight minutes in the first half.
“It felt really good because coming from last year, I couldn’t really play defense because of my ankle,” Ganley said of his interception. “To get an interception on the first drive on defense, I think boosted us up. Then we followed it with the interception for return, and then a few tipped passes. We stayed pretty steady on defense.”
Ingram watched two passes bounce off of his fingers, and Ethan Allsopp picked off a pass midway through the second quarter and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown.
“We really, really stress trying to get turnovers in practice, so I know our defensive coaches will be pleased with that start,” Dodd said. “That’s one thing that, if they had any fault, our defensive unit last year didn’t get enough turnovers. I’m pleased with them tonight.”
Dylan Dodd also recovered a fumble, and the Bismarck-Henning defense held Martinsville to only one touchdown. The Blue Devils’ defense has now given up more than one touchdown in a game only once in the last 12 contests.
In addition to his efforts on defense, Ganley rushed for 122 yards on 6 carries, and first-year quarterback Dylan Allen completed three of his four pass attempts for 80 yards. All three completions were for 20 yards or more, and two of the three went for touchdowns. Chase Swinford had two catches for 55 yards, and Braedon Lappin-Pratt caught one touchdown pass for 25 yards.
The strong defensive effort and explosive plays on offense helped Bismarck-Henning earn a 48-0 lead with five minutes, five seconds to go in the first half. It eventually gave way to the second team for the final two series of the half.
The Blue Devils will be on the road next week taking on Arcola. Bismarck-Henning defeated Arcola 44-0 last season, and is hopeful it will continue its success.
“I know there are a lot of doubters since we lost some of those kids (from last season), but we are out here to show people that we can do it,” Ganley said. “We’re not laying low just because we have new kids. We’re going to pick it up and try to do better.”
Bismarck-Henning’s next home game will be on Sept. 13 against Milford/Cissna Park.