WEST FARGO — West Fargo Sheyenne quarterback Grant Warkenthien plunged across the goal line for the game-winning score with 1 minute, 57 seconds remaining to lift the Mustangs to a 36-29 victory over Fargo Shanley in North Dakota Class 11AA East Region football on Friday at West Fargo Sheyenne High School.
The quarterback kept the ball on a read option from four yards out and hammered his way to paydirt. The score was the final lead change in a back-and-forth affair between the No. 2 Mustangs (3-0) and No. 3 Deacons (2-1). The lead changed hands five times in the second half as the two offenses punched and counter-punched.
“I knew we needed one more and we got it,” Warkenthien said. “The offensive line was creating big holes all night. It’s pretty easy to run the ball when there’s nobody in your way. Credit to them.”
Warkenthien’s touchdown capped a 17-play, 67-yard drive that took 7:33 off the clock. The quarterback converted two fourth-down passes — both to Logan Holsing — to keep the march alive. The Mustangs ran the ball 13 times for 43 yards on the drive with fullback Josh Henricks handling seven of those carries.
“The line gave me just enough time,” Warkenthien said. “And Logan — he’s been under the radar this year, I don’t know if he had any catches. But he stepped up with two huge catches. Those weren’t easy, he was laying out for those catches.”
Despite a lack of prior production, the Sheyenne signal caller said he was confident that Holsing would make the plays on the key fourth-down throws. The first one went for 13 yards on fourth-and-6 from the Mustangs’ 42. The second went for 10 yards on fourth-and-9 from their own 16.
“I saw him and I trusted him 100%,” Warkenthien said. “I was with him all through summer camp. I’ve been going to elementary school with him since first grade. We know each other and I knew we would complete those passes. The kid's got great hands.”
With 1:57 to go in the game, the Deacons had plenty of time for their fast-paced offense to answer. Shanley’s offense pushed the pace all game, running as quickly as they could line up. The explosive tandem of running back Aidan DeVine and wide receiver John Gores were a threat to score on any play. Gores caught a 73-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and totaled three catches for 88 yards and two scores. DeVine had runs of 64 and 44 and finished with 23 carries for 219 yards and a touchdown, plus five catches for 45 yards and another score.
The Mustangs defense stopped the Deacons when it mattered most, forcing a game-sealing turnover on downs on Shanley's final drive. On fourth-and-5 from the Deacons 44, Sheyenne’s defense penetrated into the backfield and tackled the running back for a loss.
“It was a rocky road defending them," Sheyenne coach Jeremy Newton said. Like I told the guys, we struggled some and they struggled some. They came together at the right time and made plays. That was huge.”
The Deacons led by two scores, 17-6, in the second quarter, but the Mustangs didn’t panic. Josh Henricks scored on a 1-yard run late in the first half and then doubled up with an 18-yard scoring run on the opening drive in the second half to take a 20-17 lead.
Henricks totaled 192 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the game.
“We needed (that double-up),” Newton said. “They dominated us after the first drive in the first half. To have that first half end good and the second half begin good really helped our morale a lot.”
The Deacons answered with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Michael Rostberg to DeVine on the next drive to push them back in front 23-20.
James Hagen struck with a 70-yard touchdown run to give the Mustangs a 28-23 lead. Warkenthien faked a handoff to Henricks up the middle and pitched out to Hagen on a sweep to the left. Hagen rounded the corner and had only one man to beat. He hit the sideline and outran the safety to the end zone.
DeVine scored a 7-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive to push the Deacons back in front 29-28. And then the Mustangs went on their game-winning march.
“We always play like it’s 0-0,” Warkenthien said. “Every drive we go out there and we put it in our head that it is 0-0 and we’ve got to score. We’ve usually been up this year, but tonight we got down. But we just kept the same mentality. We didn’t let them being up bother us and I think the guys handled it really well.”
The win puts the Mustangs in the drivers’ seat in the East Region. In two weeks, they have two wins over highly-ranked region foes. They beat then-No. 2 West Fargo last week and came right back with a win over third-ranked Shanley this week.
“This win is huge, Shanley has great athletes like DeVine and Gores, they’re well coached,” Warkenthien said. “To come out and beat a good program like that feels great. It gives us confidence going into next week and keeps the ball rolling.”
FS 8 9 6 6 — 29
WFS 6 8 6 16 — 36
WFS — Henricks 5 run (kick failed).
FS — Gores 14 pass from Rostberg (DeVine run).
FS — Gores 73 pass from Rostberg (run failed).
FS — Leininger 27 field goal.
WFS — Henricks 1 run (Warkenthien run).
WFS — Henricks 18 run (kick failed).
FS — DeVine 3 pass from Rostberg (run failed).
WFS — Hagen 70 run (Henricks run)
FS — DeVine 7 run (run failed)
WFS — Warkenthien 4 run (Henricks run)