FARGO — In an uncertain season, during an unpredictable year, Bismarck Century brought some familiarity to the Dakota Bowl on Friday. The Patriots won their second straight Class 3A state football title at Gate City Bank Field.
And it was all-too familiar for West Fargo Sheyenne. The Patriots walked away with the Class 3A crown a year ago in the state championship, topping Sheyenne 10-0.
Century lit up the scoreboard more frequently this year, downing Sheyenne 34-0 and preserving its now 22-game win streak.
“It’s a surreal moment for our football team and our program,” said Century senior Andrew Leingang. “We spent a lot of time this offseason working hard. There was a lot of uncertainty during the season whether we'd get this far. Doing this for the coaches, doing this for the culture, it's just an unbelievable feeling.”
Century dominated on both sides of the ball to hand Sheyenne its first shutout of the year for the second year in a row. The Patriots held the Mustangs, who typically average 302 rushing yards per game, to 85.
“For this senior class to put two good, back-to-back years, and do it in the manner that they have with all of the pandemic regulations, etc., it means a lot,” said Century head coach Ron Wingenbach. “It’s one that they’ll always remember. That’s for sure.”
It’s one the Sheyenne seniors won’t forget about, either.
Barika Kpeenu, a standout senior running back for the Mustangs, went down on a knee after the buzzer sounded. The reality had set in. His football career as a Mustang was over.
“We wanted a different outcome. It being my last year, I wanted to make sure I gave it all I got, to know I gave it everything I got,” Kpeenu said.
There wasn’t any quit in the Mustangs, or Kpeenu, who caught a 3-yard pass on the final play of the game.
“I just hope the underclassmen know I just played with everything I got. It was tough,” Kpeenu said. “They got those three scores, but everything that you work for is for this moment.”
“They’re a good team,” Kpeenu added. “They proved it right from the first snap that they wanted it.”
After the Patriots ended their first drive with a punt, the Century defense forced a three-and-out in Sheyenne’s first possession. Century scored on its second drive, giving a glimpse of what its run-heavy offense is capable of.
Peyton Arndt scampered eight yards into the end zone with four minutes left in the first quarter. The Patriots went 64 yards in the drive, all of which were picked up on the ground.
“The turning point was definitely when we got our second stop,” said Century senior Cade Garcia, who led the Patriots on the ground with 142 yards on 22 attempts and two scores. “I definitely think that was the big stop. We stopped them four-and-out and that’s what got us going.”
Century opened the second quarter with a 34-yard field goal by Wade James, who was also successful in all his extra-point kicks Friday. Sheyenne’s Kpeenu fumbled on the ensuing kickoff and Century recovered at the Mustang 15. The fumble led to Garcia’s first score of the night.
The Mustangs picked up their first first down of the game in the following drive, but a 15-yard chop block penalty, followed by a Century interception, halted the momentum. A swing pass intended for Kpeenu landed in Leingang’s hands.
“Our special teams was unbelievable,” said Leingang, a Kansas State football commit. “They made some of those big plays, some of those fumble recoveries, which that's a huge turnaround. It gives us great field position, and then at that point, it just kind of gives us that momentum build. And momentum is a very important factor in the game like this.”
Garcia capped Century’s strong first half with a 4-yard touchdown run in the final 37 seconds of the first half. He accounted for all of the team’s offense on the 64-yard scoring drive, rushing for all 64 of the team’s yards.
Century held Sheyenne to just 40 rushing yards in the first half. The Patriots offense more than tripled that, with 168 yards on the ground.
Sheyenne faced a 24-0 deficit entering the second half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Century once again took command in the fourth frame. Quarterback Noah Schaffner dimmed hopes of a Sheyenne comeback as he broke loose for a 30-yard touchdown run. Entering this year, the Patriots graduated a standout quarterback, leaving a gaping hole at that position.
“We brought in a quarterback that has kind of watched for two years. He’s waited and waited and waited,” Wingenbach said. “For him to come out this year, his last six games have really been phenomenal. He’s a man that makes all the checks for us. Our run game is a lot of checks. He’s made the checks correctly.”
Down by 31, Sheyenne fumbled on the following kickoff, which was scooped up by Century’s Isaiah Pajimula. James booted a 43-yard field goal with just under five minutes remaining to set up the championship-clinching score.
All Wingenbach told his team before Friday's championship was that 10 points wasn't going to win it this year.
Sheyenne 0 0 0 0-0
Century 7 17 0 10-34
BC-Arndt 8 run (James kick)
BC-James 34 FG
BC-Garcia 10 run (James kick)
BC-Garcia 4 run (James kick)
BC-Schaffner 30 run (James kick)
BC-James 43 FG
RUSHING: WFS-Kpennu 11-38, Henricks 10-30, Anderson 5-25, Goldade 1-4, Warkenthien 4-(-12). BC-Garcia 22-142, Schaffner 12-59, Arndt 3-15, Boehm 1-2.
PASSING: WFS-Warkenthien 11-25, 93 yards. BC-Schaffner 4-10, 45.
RECEIVING: WFS-Leake 2-36, Anderson 5-29, Urlaub 2-23, Kpeenu 2-5. BC-Jeske 1-28, Boehm 1-13, Schulte 1-6, Garcia 1-(-1).