Warkenthien's 4 touchdowns lift Sheyenne over Shanley for third straight Dakota Bowl trip
West Fargo Sheyenne senior quarterback Grant Warkenthien ran for four touchdowns to lift Sheyenne to a 36-21 win over Fargo Shanley on Friday in the Class 11AA state semifinals.
WEST FARGO — A few minutes after fireworks went off at Essentia Health Mustang Stadium on Friday, West Fargo Sheyenne’s three-year starting quarterback Grant Warkenthien reflected on his team’s third consecutive semifinal victory.
Warkenthien and the Mustangs reached the Dakota Bowl the last two seasons, though both ended in heartbreak. Warkenthien, a senior, didn’t know if there’d be another trip left to the Fargodome at the start of this year.
“You kind of go into the season thinking, 'What if we don’t get there again?'" Warkenthien said. “That’s obviously the goal, but what if you don’t get there?”
Warkenthien made sure the Mustangs would get another chance at a state championship. The 6-foot, 170-pound quarterback ran for four touchdowns to lift Sheyenne to a 36-21 win over Fargo Shanley on Friday in the Class 11AA state semifinals.
The Mustangs earned the program’s third consecutive trip to the state championship game. Sheyenne is the first Eastern Dakota Conference team to appear in three consecutive Dakota Bowls since Fargo South went to seven in a row from 2004 to 2010.
“To get another shot at that, that's all God,” Warkenthien said. “He wants me to be there, He wants me to get another shot. I'm just kind of putting it in his hands. The last two years haven't gone my way but I've trusted him and said maybe you're testing me.”
Sheyenne will meet its crosstown rival West Fargo at 6:40 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12, at the Fargodome in the all-West Fargo Dakota Bowl. The Mustangs (11-0) picked up a 28-7 win over the Packers (9-2) in Week 2 of the regular season.
“We've been working for this all season,” junior running back Kaden Rahr said. “We've been there the last two years and to get back is not easy, but we did it.”
The Deacons, who have been a thorn in Sheyenne’s side since the program’s jump to the highest class in North Dakota high school football, certainly didn’t make it easy on the Mustangs. Sheyenne’s 36-29 win over Shanley in Week 3 is the closest an opponent came to taking down the Mustangs this season. On Friday, the Deacons tested Sheyenne and its powerful run game again.
The sides traded punches throughout the first half. Sheyenne set the tone early for what would be a back-and-forth 24 minutes. After forcing a Shanley three-and-out in the game’s opening possession that included a fumble on a backwards pass and sack, the Mustangs marched 68 yards on 17 plays on a drive that took nine minutes.
Warkenthien capped the time-consuming drive with a 2-yard touchdown.
Nine plays and just over two minutes later, Shanley’s Aidan DeVine punched it in for a 6-yard score to tie it at 7-all early in the second quarter, which belonged to the Deacons. Shanley’s Tyler Kraft recovered a Sheyenne fumble on the ensuing drive that the Deacons took advantage of. DeVine cut up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown that put Shanley up by one score with five minutes remaining in the second half.
“We knew they weren't gonna come easy at us,” Rahr said. “We knew it was gonna be a dogfight.”
The Mustangs answered less than two minutes later after Warkenthien exploded for a 41-yard rushing touchdown that capped a 60-yard, five-play drive.
Shanley had the final answer of the second half. Kraft hauled in a 14-yard touchdown reception from Deacons quarterback Michael Rostberg to grab a 21-14 halftime lead.
"To be honest, I don't even know where that came from. I'm not the fastest guy,” Warkenthien said on his performance. “I don't run the ball a whole lot, even though we're triple option. But sometimes you have that ball in your hands and you're running and you just want it bad.”
The Mustangs had trouble defending Shanley’s no-huddle offense the Deacons switched to late in the first quarter, but found a way to hold off Shanley’s equally as high-powered offensive attack. Sheyenne hasn’t dropped a game at home since Sept. 8, 2017, to West Fargo, and the Mustangs weren’t about to start yet.
After a three-touchdown second quarter, Shanley was shut out by a stifling Sheyenne defense in the second half.
Warkenthien ran a quarterback sneak up the middle early halfway through the third quarter to tie it at 21. The Mustangs pulled ahead for the first time since the first quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run by Rahr. Karter Menz, who had three sacks Friday, hauled in a 2-point conversion pass from Henricks to pad the lead early in the fourth frame.
Warkenthien broke loose for a 30-yard touchdown that set up the game-clinching score. Sheyenne forced a game-sealing turnover on downs with less than five minutes remaining.
WFS 7 7 7 15—36
FS 0 21 0 0—21
WFS — Warkenthien 3 run (Birnbaum kick)
FS — DeVine 6 run (Jaeger kick)
FS — DeVine 14 run (Jaeger kick)
WFS — Warkenthien 41 run (Birnbaum kick)
FS — Kraft 14 pass from Rostberg (Jaeger kick)
WFS — Warkenthien 5 run (Birnbaum kick)
WFS — Rahr 4 run (Menz pass from Henricks)
WFS — Warkenthien 30 run (Birnbaum kick)