FARGO — Bismarck Century lost by five points in the state championship a season ago. One year later, on the same stage at Gate City Bank Field, the Patriots cemented their first-ever perfect season and will return to Bismarck with a different plaque this time.
Century’s formidable defense outmatched West Fargo Sheyenne’s elite offense to claim the Class 3A state football title Friday at the Fargodome. The Patriots handed the Mustangs their first shutout of the season and notched a 10-0 Dakota Bowl victory, the lowest scoring state title game in 3A history.
The Patriots have made it to the Dakota Bowl four out of the last five seasons, winning it three times (2015, 2016, 2019). The Mustangs have five straight playoff trips under their belts.
Century kept the run-heavy Mustangs, who have averaged around 32 points per game and over 250 rushing yards, to just 128 yards on the ground with zero scores. It was the first time Sheyenne was shut out all season.
Patriots head coach Ron Wingenbach didn't see the low-scoring game coming.
"I thought 28 would be the magic number," Wingenbach said. "I thought 28 was what you would probably need to score, one of us teams, to win it."
Wingenbach said he had a pretty good feed on the Mustangs as far as who they wanted to run behind.
"They've got some excellent offensive linemen, tight end-type guys," he said. "And of course 20 (Barika Kpeenu) is a scatback."
After a scoreless first half, the turning tide was an interception thrown by Sheyenne's sophomore quarterback Grant Warkenthien, his third of the night, that led to the lone touchdown of the game.
The turnovers were huge for the Patriots, Wingenbach said.
"That positive turnover, the field position, it's kind of what our M.O. was all year and tonight it kind of came to fruition again," he said.
North Dakota State commit Tyler Terhark had seven receptions for 88 yards. He had one out-of-bounds catch just a few inches shy of a touchdown. Wingenbach knew the senior wide receiver would be a threat to his team.
"And No. 1 (Terhark), this is I think the third or fourth time we've gone up against him, and we know what kind of player he is," Wingenbach said. "Just a great championship game."
Terhark will play more football with the Bison, but said he was going to miss all of the seniors on his team.
"I thought we did a great job. It's very sad that it's over," Terhark said. "I love my brothers, I'm going to miss this for sure."
"I think we accomplished a lot (this season). I'm glad that we got this far, it's just sad that it's over," he added.
A scoreless first half showed just how even the matchup between the two teams was. Friday’s contest was the first time since 2013 the two top seeds met in the Dakota Bowl.
Sheyenne kept the Patriots to 28 yards in Century's opening possession. The Patriots punted on fourth down, and the Mustangs started the ensuing drive at their own 1.
The Mustangs offense ate up 5 minutes, 30 seconds of the clock and went 77 yards, but couldn't find the end zone.
In the final minute of the first half, Tyler Terhark had a 20-yard toe-tap catch right at the 33. The Mustangs got to the Patriots 12, but a Warkenthien interception gave the ball back to Century.
Barika Kpeenu, the East Region's leading rusher, powered through swarms of Patriots on six carries to lead the Mustangs' 57-yard opening drive of the second half. The Mustangs were hoping to find the end zone on third down, but Warkenthien launched an incomplete pass followed by his third interception of the night.
Century's Andrew Walter recorded 46 yards on the return, and Skyler Riedinger hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cade Feeney with 24 seconds to go in the third frame.
Wade James set up the Dakota Bowl-clinching score with a 37-yard field goal at the 9:23 mark in the fourth quarter.
Century quarterback Feeney, a North Dakota State baseball commit who has a completion percentage of 63 percent, connected on 3 of 7 passes for 36 yards and a score. On the ground, he ran for 140 yards on 19 attempts.
On the other side, Warkenthien had 128 yards in the air on 12 of 22 attempts and four interceptions. Kpeenu ran for 71 yards on 15 attempts. Zach Rodgers recorded 39 yards on 11 rushes.
The Mustangs had 19 first downs and 256 yards of total offense, while Century only had 13 and 216.
The Patriots had only their second turnover of the season Friday night.