WEST FARGO — One of the area's most anticipated games in high school football was played in a steady downpour Friday. Crosstown rivals West Fargo Sheyenne and West Fargo clashed in an Eastern Dakota Conference football matchup under rainy and wet conditions.
But the Mustangs didn't need picture-perfect conditions to notch a 28-0 shutout win over the Packers. Sheyenne's run-heavy brand of football — and its top offensive weapon — proved too much for its crosstown rival.
"Anytime you can win on this field is a great thing," Sheyenne head football coach Jeremy Newton said. "We had a few things not go our way tonight, but we were able to overcome them, and we did it as a team. I’m really proud of our guys."
Senior running back Barika Kpeenu helped the Mustangs hand West Fargo (2-1) its first loss of the season, erupting for four touchdowns Friday night. With the win, Sheyenne is off to a 3-0 undefeated start to the season.
"I really wanted this one," Kpeenu said. "It was probably the last time I’ll play West Fargo. It’s always good to win against our hometown rival."
It was a quieter rivalry night than past years, with Essentia Health Packer Stadium only allowed 1,000 attendees — or 40% capacity, but the showdown felt just as intense.
"You see them lined up across from you. We’re not as focused on the crowd in the game," Newton said. "But yeah, we know exactly who they are. Definitely for me it felt the same."
The Mustangs needed just over three minutes to get ahead. Kpeenu struck first for Sheyenne after he got the pitch for a 7-yard touchdown run. Mustangs junior Josh Henricks tallied 26 yards in the 61-yard opening drive.
The Mustangs showed their defense could also dominate in the following drive, holding the Packers to negative yardage. West Fargo was forced to punt. A short kick gave Sheyenne good field position at the Packers' 29. Junior quarterback Grant Warkenthien fumbled and gave the ball back to the Packers, but not for long.
Sheyenne's defensive line swarmed the Packers once again and forced a turnover on downs. But 10 seconds later, Warkenthien threw a pick to tally back-to-back Sheyenne turnovers.
The Packers had a strong defensive performance in the first half, forcing three turnovers.
"We needed tempo. We felt like we were letting ourselves down," Kpeenu said. "We killed ourselves. They didn’t really do much, we just killed ourselves on the offensive end turning over the ball."
West Fargo, which was led by Parker Nelson's 11 carries for 69 yards in the first half, struggled to generate big plays on offense, managing 99 yards of total offense in the game. The Mustangs amassed 351.
The steady downfall of rain entering the second half didn't seem to faze the Mustangs on either end.
"That was just us getting back and getting things going right away," Kpeenu said.
Sheyenne's defense forced two punts in the third quarter. The Mustangs capped the defensive onslaught on West Fargo's third drive of the frame when Kole Menz recovered the ball that slipped out of Packers quarterback Peyton Jantzi's hands.
Sheyenne's rushing attack couldn't be stopped amidst the downpour. Kpeenu added a pair of 8-yard touchdown rushes in the frame to extend Sheyenne's lead to 21-0 entering the final quarter.
"I think that was huge, because we were kind of down, gave up the ball a few times, and I felt like they had some momentum," Newton said on his team's start in the second half. "When we came out and stopped them and scored, I felt like that was huge for us."
The conditions seemed to be at play as the clock was winding down in the third quarter. The ball slipped out of Jantzi’s hands and recovered by Sheyenne's Menz in the final two seconds. A minute into the fourth quarter, Kpeenu slipped and fumbled in the end zone.
"It was definitely tough. You had to focus on holding the ball. And it was my bad for those two turnovers," Kpeenu said. "I gotta get better next week. But no excuses for the fumbles I had."
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound running back made up for it on the ensuing possession with a 49-yard touchdown run midway through the final frame. Kpeenu broke away from three Packers to ice the game.
WFS 7 0 14 7—28
WF 0 0 0 0—0
WFS — Kpeenu 7 run (Moser kick)
WFS — Kpeenu 8 run (Moser kick)
WFS — Kpeenu 8 run (Moser kick)
WFS — Kpeenu 49 run (Moser kick)