Mustangs survive Legacy, advance to state semis
WEST FARGO — The West Fargo Sheyenne defense likely won't look back on its performance on Friday with fond memories.
But thanks to linebacker Zach Rodgers, the Mustangs will have the chance to redeem themselves.
Rodgers had two second-half interceptions, including one with 1 minute, 57 seconds to play, which helped the top-seeded Mustangs escape with a 28-21 win over Bismarck Legacy in the opening round of the North Dakota Class 3A football state playoffs.
Behind two big first half gambles, the Mustangs built a 14-0 halftime lead on touchdown runs by Nathan Goldade and Hunter Hoffner. On each possession, Coach Jeremy Newton kept his offense on the field on 4th-and-1 plays in his own territory, the first from his own 40, the second from the 29.
"The guys wanted to go for it," Newton said. "I trusted them and it worked out tonight."
Legacy, which lost 47-7 at Sheyenne in week two, converted a gamble of its own in the third quarter, recovering an onside kick to open the second half, capping it with a 2 yard touchdown run by Rhett Clements.
After a goal line stop by Legacy, Rodgers and the Mustangs appeared to gain some breathing room, as the linebacker's first pick of the season led to Hoffner's second touchdown run from 12 yards out to make it 21-7.
But Clements, who threw for 146 yards and ran for 21 more in the second half, kept the Sabers in it with a string of impressive plays. Best among them was an 8-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, when he spun away from two free rushers, then broke another tackle at the line of scrimmage before barreling into the end zone.
After another Mustang touchdown, a 76-yard Parker Sander to Caden Jastram pass, Clements found pay dirt through the air on a 22-yard pass to Patrick Doan.
The 3-6 Sabers then got one last chance to tie the score following a stop with just over three minutes to play. But the rally ended there, as Rodgers perfectly read a Clements pass down the seam, jumping it for another interception.
"I knew they kept going to that play," Rodgers said. "We got burned on it a couple times before. I told our safety behind me Tyler (Terhark) 'I got your back on this play, we're going to get this done.' And I saw the ball up in the air and I went and got it."
Fortunately, it proved to be the last snap of the night for the defense, as Sander, who finished with 65 yards on the ground, barreled forward for an eight-yard run on 3rd-and-6.
Spectators weren't the only ones surprised by the competitive nature of Friday's game, and the sense of relief among Sheyenne players was palpable afterwards.
"This was a dogfight," Rodgers said. "It was a tougher game that we expected but we knew this team was good and we knew it was going to be a tough going. They kept fighting and we kept fighting and we came out on top."
The win brings about a tougher team next week, as 9-1 Bismarck Century, which handed the Mustangs their only loss of the regular season, comes to town next week.
Though disappointed with some elements of the performance, players said all their focus would immediately shift to next week's semifinal.
"We're in the final four," Sander said. "It's four good teams and it's a great opportunity for us. We just want to step it up and keep playing hard next week."BL 0 0 7 14-21WFS 6 8 7 7-28WFS-Goldade 4 run (Kick failed)
WFS-Hoffner 5 run (Goldade run)
BL-Clements 2 run (Seidel kick)
WFS-Hoffner 12 run (Hoang kick)
BL-Clements 8 run (Seidel kick)
WFS-Jastram 76 pass from Sander (Hoang kick)
BL-Doan 22 pass from Clements (Seidel kick)