Conference points weren't the only thing on the line for West Fargo High and West Fargo Sheyenne on Friday. It was rivalry night.
The crosstown rivals faced off under the lights in front of about 2,500 people in a cutthroat Eastern Dakota Conference matchup.
The Mustangs, who were ranked No. 2 in the latest Class 3A football poll, notched a 21-6 win at Essentia Health Mustangs Stadium.
With Friday’s victory, Sheyenne remains undefeated and is off to a 5-0 start for the first time in the program’s history.
"Any win over West Fargo is a good win for us," Sheyenne head coach Jeremy Newton said. "They're a very well-coached football team and it was a tough battle tonight."
The Mustangs now boast a 5-0 record overall and 3-0 in the EDC. The Packers fell to 2-3 overall and 2-1 in the EDC.
"We've stayed together as a team," Newton said. "We've made mistakes on both sides of the ball, but the other side is there to pick each other up and that's the best part of our team."
Marcus Gulley, a key two-way player for the Packers, was injured with just under six minutes left in the first quarter. He would sit out the rest of the first half. West Fargo senior and two-way starter Wyatt Bradley was also out with an injury for the second consecutive week.
The Packers had the chance to score on the first drive of the second quarter with the help of a 15-yard penalty called on Sheyenne's Tommy Bright, a senior defensive end. The penalty could've been detrimental to the Mustangs, but Packers senior quarterback Dustin Mertz's pass to wide receiver Carson Hegerle was intercepted in the end zone by safety Alex Urlaub.
During a nearly scoreless first half, the Mustangs got on the board with one minute remaining in the second quarter. Sheyenne senior wide receiver Tyler Terhark, a North Dakota State commit, caught a 13-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Grant Warkenthien. Sheyenne grabbed a 7-0 lead that would stick heading into the second half.
Warkenthien connected on 7 of 9 passes for 85 yards in the first half. Terhark had six receptions for 76 yards.
West Fargo's Hegerle had three receptions for 47 yards in the first two.
The Packers pass rush shined in the first half, sacking Warkenthien three times.
The Mustangs exploded on offense entering the second half. Three minutes into the third quarter, Sheyenne senior Zach Rodgers broke free on a 28-yard carry. Junior running back Barika Kpeenu capped the powerful drive with a 26-yard touchdown run. Tony Hoang tallied the extra point to give the Mustangs a 14-0 lead.
Sheyenne cornerback Lance Oster tallied his fourth interception of the season, picking off Mertz in the third quarter. Mertz connected on 8 of 22 passes for 91 yards.
The Packers entered the fourth quarter trailing by 14.
Senior running back Joel McIntosh got the Packers into Mustangs territory four minutes into the fourth quarter with an explosive 42-yard run. McIntosh ran for 89 yards on 12 attempts in the game.
Mertz punched in a 2-yard touchdown run to get the Packers on the board with four minutes to go in the game, cutting it to 14-6.
Sheyenne's Kpeenu scored in the final minute of the game on a 64-yard run to clinch the 21-6 game-winning score. Kpeenu had 13 carries for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
The teams' colors were sprinkled throughout the stands at Essentia Health Mustang Stadium, but the bleachers weren't parted by blue and orange, and green and white.
Some things are bigger than football.
Both student sections donned yellow "Landon's Light" T-shirts in support of Landon Solberg, the 12-year-old West Fargo boy who died earlier this month after a long battle with brain cancer.
The Packers and Mustangs also sported "Landon's Light" decals on their helmets and wore lime green socks.
West Fargo head coach Jay Gibson was proud of his players after the EDC contest.
"We did not capitalize on the end of our drives, but we threw the ball at times, pretty well," Gibson said. "We got some running going in the second half, but I just think the Mustangs defense is tremendous. So the fact that we even scored is a feather in our hat. That's a really good football team we played."
"I thought we played extremely gallant," Gibson added.
The atmosphere was nothing short of electric. The rivalry game drew a huge turn out of hometown fans, and portable bleachers were brought in for the overflow crowd.
"You think that (the rivalry) is just any other game," Newton said. "But you get here at 6 p.m. and the place is packed, it's not the same game as normal."
West Fargo still holds the advantage in the series between the two teams (3-2), but Friday’s win inches the Mustangs closer to gaining the upper hand.
Heading into the rivalry game, the Packers came off of a 20-7 upset over Fargo South (ranked No. 3 at the time) on Friday, Sept. 20. The Mustangs posted a 20-14 victory over Fargo North that same night.
The Packers host Grand Forks Red River (1-3, 0-2 EDC) in their homecoming game at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4. The Mustangs next play a road game against Shanley (3-1, 1-1 overall) at 7 p.m. that night.