Mustangs blank Packers, earn first win in football rivalry
West Fargo Sheyenne football coach Jeremy Newton isn't known for being a talker, and as he embraced senior offensive lineman Evan Curran following Friday's matchup with West Fargo, he was particularly terse in his description of the evening's proceedings.
"Finally," Newton said, a simply declaration that perfectly captured the mood on the Mustang sideline.
Sheyenne turned West Fargo away four times from inside the 25-yard line, and got just enough offense to escape with a 12-0 win, their first victory over the Packers in their five years as a varsity program.
The Packers had every opportunity to open a multi-score lead in the first half, turning two Mustang turnovers into long drives, only to have two apparent touchdowns taken off the board.
Early in the second quarter, Carter Birrenkott appeared to haul in a 27-yard touchdown pass, only to have the ball spring loose before he was able to complete the catch.
Two possessions later, Luke Lennon caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Carter Sahli, but this play was also wiped out, this time by a holding penalty.
Both drives ended via turnover on downs.
Though Friday's performance marked a noted improvement over the first two weeks from a yardage standpoint, West Fargo was still unable to finish off a drive, and has scored just eight points total during an 0-3 start.
"There's some wall on the goal line for some reason," Packer Coach Jay Gibson said afterwards. "We just can't get in the end zone."
Making matters worse was the loss of leading running back Joel McIntosh, who left with a leg injury on the game's second play and didn't return.
Despite a sluggish offensive performance, the Mustangs managed to grab a halftime lead, when Nathan Goldade capped a 70-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 23.2 seconds left in the half.
Goldade's score was set up by a 27-yard pass from Parker Sander to Caden Jastram down the right sideline on a third-and-14 play earlier in the drive.
After forcing another turnover on downs at the 23 in the third quarter, the Mustangs proceeded to drain more than seven minutes off the clock on a 14-play, 67-yard drive, where all yardage was gained on the ground.
After the Packers forced a fourth-and-4, junior kicker Tony Hoang delivered a 27-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, given the Mustangs some breathing room with a 10-0 lead.
"It felt good right as it left my foot," Hoang said. "We practiced it all week from different spots. I feel like that kick was just another simple practice kick."
With a two-score cushion, the Mustang defense continued its strong showing, closing the night with two more highlight-worthy plays.
Tommy Bright recorded back-to-back sacks, the second of which went for a safety that pushed the advantage to 12-0.
The Packers seemed to gain a bit of life after recovering an onside free kick and driving down to the Mustang nine. But Tyler Terhark completed the shutout with an interception on fourth-and-goal, Sheyenne's second pick of the game.
Despite playing for just the fifth time, the win was still of great significance to Mustang players, who were ecstatic to earn their first win in the crosstown showdown.
"It's a rivalry. We haven't beaten this team and we wanted it," Bright said. "It's a big win for us. This was our highlight game. Coach kept telling us that this is a game that really mattered and was going to give us confidence. And we did it."
For the short term, the win also may have shifted the tide in this season's Eastern Dakota Conference race.
"It's one big EDC win over a team that's dominated the EDC over the last four years," Newton said.
The Mustangs who entered the week ranked third in the Class 3A poll, face another team hoping to insert itself atop the EDC this Friday, when they travel to face a fifth-ranked Fargo Davies team coming off a resounding 49-6 win over Fargo North.
Having opened against three straight top-five opponents, things seemingly get easier for the Packers this week, as they host 1-2 Bismarck Legacy.
Though he says it's on his players to take the next step, Gibson remains confident they are on the verge of a breakthrough.
"Legacy will be in trouble if we improve as much again this week as we did the previous week," he said. "Because we were a much better football team than we were last week."
The Mustangs and Packers both kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.
WFS 0 7 0 5—12
WF 0 0 0 0— 0
WFS-Goldade 2 run (Hoang kick)
WFS-Hoang 27 field goal
WFS-Sahli tackled in end zone for safety