"It sucks" Sheyenne falls to Century
The future remains bright for the West Fargo Sheyenne football team, but it doesn't make the disappointment of the present sting any less.
With only Bismarck Century standing between them and a first ever appearance in the Dakota Bowl, the Mustangs looked to be in good position, as a 15-yard touchdown pass from Parker Sander to Tyler Terhark gave them a 20-14 lead midway through the third quarter of Friday's Class 3A state semifinal matchup.
But the lead would be a short one, as the Patriots, who handed Sheyenne its only loss of the regular season, answered with a touchdown to pull back in front 21-20.
After recording an interception on the first play of the ensuing Mustang possession, they added another, then dominated the clock the rest of the way, handing Sheyenne a season-ending 31-20 loss.
Having captured the first Eastern Dakota Conference title in the school's short history, players were confident they could push even further and become the first Mustang squad to compete in the FargoDome in November.
After falling short of that goal, the mood on the field afterwards was predictably sour, as tears were seen streaming down the faces of dozens of players.
"It's tough," said Sander, one of 16 seniors on the Sheyenne roster. "We've been getting messages from past players saying 'go take it.' It would have been a special moment for the school, a special opportunity for us.
Even though their disappointment was still very fresh, Mustang seniors still expressed an appreciation for what they have been able to accomplish over the past four years.
When they came in as freshman in 2015, the group was joining a program with virtually no history, as the Mustangs had gone just 3-6 the season before, their first year as a varsity program.
Over the next four seasons, Sheyenne compiled a record of 30-12, reaching the state playoffs four times and helping establish the program as a legitimate player in 3A football.
"It's devastating knowing we were so close," senior wide receiver/defensive back Caden Jastram said. "But it was great seeing how far we've come over the previous years."
Though several key players are departing, the cupboard will hardly be bare going into 2019. The Mustangs will return the EDC's leading rusher (Nathan Goldade) and tackler (Zach Rodgers) and a 22-man junior class will be in good position to pick up where this year's team left off.
But even with a slew of high-level contributors coming back on both sides of the ball, Coach Jeremy Newton knows replacing this group of seniors will be a tall task, both on the field and in the locker room.
"They're a great bunch of kids," Newton said. "They worked really hard to get where they are. They were really good leaders and I hope they showed the younger kids what it takes to be that level of player."
Even though they fell short of their ultimate goal, graduating players still believe they left a model for success that will be easy for their teammates to follow.
"It showed that we cared out there," Sander said. "I think that helped."