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Mustangs look to get upper hand on struggling Packers

Hunter Hoffner of Sheyenne carries against West Fargo during their 2017 football game. Hoffner is one of several returning Mustangs hoping to earn the school's first win against their crosstown rival. File photo

If a rivalry requires competitive balance, the four-year football history between West Fargo and West Fargo Sheyenne doesn't yet qualify.

Since launching their varsity program in 2014, the Mustangs have struggled mightily against their more established crosstown foe. In four meetings, the Packers have outscored Sheyenne 139-28, winning each matchup by at least 20 points.

This included a 49-14 rout in last season's matchup, which was preceded by shutouts in both 2015 and 2016.

Having been decisively on the wrong end of each matchup, Mustang players are predictably eager to change the narrative.

"This game has been in the back of my head since day one," junior running back Nathan Goldade said. "I'm excited we've got a week to prepare and I can't wait to go out Friday night."

Goldade and his teammates have good reason to be excited, as, for the first time in the history of the matchup, they enter as the decided favorite.

Following a disappointing overtime road loss to Class 3A top-ranked Bismarck Century in week one, the Mustangs rebounded in a big way, rushing for 325 yards and scoring on their first five possessions in a 47-7 win against Bismarck Legacy.

That power run game has a chance to build on that success Friday against a West Fargo team that allowed 299 yards on the ground in a 48-8 week two loss to Bismarck.

A Packer offense that has scored just one touchdown during an 0-2 start also has its work cut out for it against a Mustang defense that forced five turnovers against Century and held Legacy to just 11 yards rushing.

Already behind the 8 ball after losing all but three starters from a perfect, state-winning 2017, the Packers were done no favors by a schedule that opened with games against the third- and second-ranked teams in Class 3A. Friday brings about another top-five matchup, as the Mustangs entered the week at No. 4.

From the start of the season, Packer Coach Jay Gibson has made it known his lone goal was getting his team better every week, a goal he says is more important than maintaining dominance against an in-city opponent.

"We're not in the position to make anything one-sided," Gibson said. "Any time you split a town, it's a good rivalry. You want to beat them, they want to beat you. It's always fun.

"(But) we're a young football team. We know where we stand. We need to just keep working on fundamentals and keep improving."

Being in the favorite position for the first time, the Mustangs are mostly keeping their emotions close to the vest.

Quarterback Parker Sander went only as far as to say "I think we've got a good chance this year," while Coach Jeremy Newton added that his team has "got to come out and play hard and see what happens."

Verbally, wide receiver Caden Jastram also stayed on message. When asked what it would mean if this Mustang team could be the first to earn a win over West Fargo, he first responded by simply saying "A lot."

Then, when pausing to think on the matter, a sly smile breaks across his face before adding a brief follow-up.

"It would mean a lot."

Friday's game at West Fargo High School kicks off at 7 p.m.