It’s often been said that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best.

By Ray Maloney Journal Sports Editor It’s often been said that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. Devils Lake will get an early chance to put that age-old adage to the test when the Firebirds take on defending state champion Bismarck tonight in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m. at the Bismarck Community Bowl and will be part of a playoff doubleheader in the Capital City. Century will play Grand Forks Red River in a game that begins at 4 p.m. “We have to control the ball and run the ball,” said Devils Lake coach Jay Schneider, who has led the Firebirds into the playoffs in each of the past two years since Devils Lake returned to Class AAA after a highly-successful run through the Class AA ranks. “We have to win the battle of field position and create a long field for (Bismarck),” added Schneider, whose team will take a 4-5 overall record into tonight’s contest against the 9-0 Demons who have been ranked atop the state poll all season. Schneider said he does not expect too many changes in his team’s approach to the game. The Firebirds will continue to rely on the running attack of Austin Schall and Blake Prozinski, the top two rushers for Devils Lake all season. Schall, one of the top rushers in the Eastern Dakota Conference all season, finished the regular season with 1,077 yards on 166 carries and scored six touchdowns for the Firebirds. Prozinski, meanwhile, came on over the last few weeks of the season and accounted for 322 yards on 70 carries and scored three times. Dallas Anderson chipped in with 211 yards on 56 carries for the Firebirds. “We have to limit Bismarck’s first downs and get them off the field on third down,” Schneider said. “If we play hard and believe in ourselves we will be successful. “We simply have to play hard and execute extremely well ... then anything can happen.”