Sheyenne earns second shot at state football title with semifinal win over Bismarck High
WEST FARGO — Not every team gets a second chance at a championship. When West Fargo Sheyenne was given the opportunity, the Mustangs capitalized.
Sheyenne, which fell short in the North Dakota Class 3A state football championship last year, will get another crack at a state title. The Mustangs knocked off Bismarck High 28-21 in a Class 3A semifinal matchup Friday night to preserve their perfect 9-0 record and continue their trek to the Fargodome.
"I wanted this so bad. Since the start of the season I’ve wanted this. I knew if I got to one of these moments, I’d be able to get through it," said Sheyenne senior running back Barika Kpeenu. "My teammates have my back. I wanted to get here so bad. I’m excited."
Kpeenu, who finished with 155 total yards and three scores Friday, was overcome with emotion.
"When you’ve worked so hard for something, it’s hard not to tear up a little bit," said Kpeenu, who eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards on the season Friday. "I’m just excited and ready for the next opponent, which is Century. We want that one bad."
In a rematch of last year's Dakota Bowl, the Mustangs will play undefeated Bismarck Century (9-0) at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at the Fargodome for a state title. Sheyenne lost 10-0 to Century in last year's championship.
Friday's semifinal between top-seeded Sheyenne and West No. 2 seed Bismarck High, which finished its season at 7-2, went down to the wire. The Demons were up by one (21-20) with 6 minutes, 31 seconds remaining.
With the clock winding down and his season on the line, Kpeenu did what he's done all season — deliver clutch plays down the stretch. Kpeenu, a North Dakota State commit, busted through for a 13-yard touchdown. He tacked on the two-point conversion to put the Mustangs out front for good.
"I just knew we had to make a play to win this game," Kpeenu said. "It was good blocking by the line. I just saw a hole and I went through it."
Mustangs junior Kellen Entz came up with a game-clinching interception in Bismarck's final possession to clinch his team a spot in the Dakota Bowl.
"I saw the No. 2 receiver go up the seams on a seam route, and I saw it was kind of underthrown," Entz said. "I just undercut it and went for it. Tried to make a play on it."
The message in the Mustangs locker room before the game was to have everybody do their job and make the plays when they get the chance. Entz did just that in the final 30 seconds.
"It felt awesome. Words can’t describe it," Entz said.
The Mustangs didn’t waste any time getting on the board in the opening drive. Quarterback Grant Warkenthien handed off to Kpeenu, who plowed his way into the end zone from a yard out. Kpeenu had five carries for 40 yards in the 10-play, 80-yard drive that took just over four minutes off the clock.
The Demons went to punt on fourth down in the ensuing drive, but a high snap caused Logan Schaubert to fumble. Sheyenne sophomore Ty Schlichting recovered the ball that gave the Mustangs excellent field position at Bismarck's 23-yard line. But the Demons came up with a big defensive stop and forced a turnover on downs.
Bismarck ended their next possession with a punt, but in a momentum-turning play, Sheyenne fumbled on the return and the Demons recovered the ball. Bismarck scored on the drive two minutes into the second quarter with a 19-yard touchdown strike from Caden Fischer to Jack Steckler.
Sheyenne responded in two minutes after Warkenthien connected with senior Gage Anderson for a 43-yard touchdown pass. Matt Treib tacked on the two-point conversion to put the Mustangs up 14-7.
"It’s amazing. Being out on that field, it’s a different feeling when you’re in the semis," Anderson said. "It’s very emotional. Proud for my team."
Steckler hauled in a second TD pass from Fischer on fourth down to tie it up with 2 minutes, 9 seconds to go in the first half. The Mustangs again answered, thanks to Kpeenu, who bolted into the end zone for a 36-yard catch and run with 1:15 to go.
The Mustangs generated 218 yards of total offense in the first half.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Demons put the first points up midway through the final frame. After eating up more than nine minutes on the clock, Fischer scampered two yards into the end zone on a keeper to pull Bismarck ahead by one point with 6:31 remaining.
Fischer connected on 12 of 18 passes for 92 yards, two scores and an interception.
The Mustangs will celebrate the win tonight, but it's back to work at 8 a.m. tomorrow, Kpeenu said.
WFS 6 14 0 8—28
B 0 14 0 7—21
WFS — Kpeenu 1 run (Moser kick failed)
B — Steckler 11 pass from Fischer (Weigel kick)
WFS — Anderson 43 pass from Warkenthien (Treib run)
B — Steckler 7 pass from Fischer (Weigel kick)
WFS — Kpeenu 36 pass from Warkenthien (Urlaub run failed)
B — Fischer 2 run (Weigel kick)
WFS — Kpeenu 13 run (Kpeenu run)