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Published September 24 2011

Defending champion Deacons take down No. 1-ranked Wahpeton

FARGO – Two-time defending North Dakota Class 2A state champion Fargo Shanley proved Friday night it could still be a major player in the bid for this year’s football title. No, the Deacons aren’t finished just yet.

Senior running back Tyler Rivard ran for 134 yards and three touchdowns to lead No. 5 Shanley to a convincing 37-6 Class 2A East Region victory against previously unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Wahpeton before a packed house at Sid Cichy Stadium.

“In practice we’ve emphasized block to the whistle,” Rivard said. “I think our line has been doing a great job of that. The past two weeks, we’ve been coming together as a team and hitting and driving to the whistle.”

Much of the Deacons’ success came from a punishing running game.

Plowing forward behind an aggressive offensive line, Rivard, freshman Danny Stasch and senior Joey Thorson picked up huge chunks of yardage at a time.

The trio combined for 254 yards and 8.2 yards per carry.

Shanley’s defense put the team on the board, securing talented running back Zayne Medhaug in the end zone for a safety late in the first quarter.

Rivard scored on an 11-yard run to make the score 9-0 just minutes later.

It was a huge momentum swing for the Deacons, which earned a solid victory against upstart Kindred a week ago.

Shanley (3-2, 2-1 East Region ) took the 9-0 lead into halftime.

“We definitely capitalized on some of their turnovers and ran the ball really well,” Rivard said.

The Huskies (4-1, 2-1) were able to run the ball with Medhaug in the first half. The powerful senior had 75 yards on 12 carries before halftime.

But mistakes wiped away any Wahpeton chances.

It was more of the same to start the second half.

Rivard bolted down the field for an 84-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the half to extend the Shanley lead to 16-0.

The score changed the Huskies’ approach.

Known for grinding teams down with the running game, the Huskies were forced to go to the air. It wasn’t effective against the Deacons’ speedy secondary.

Wahpeton quarterback Preston Kath finished 4 of 13 for 20 passing yards.

“I knew Shanley was a good team,” Huskies coach Brian Dokken said. “We knew we weren’t going to come in here and walk all over anybody. They are well coached and we just shot ourselves in the foot that first half. Then, that second half we were jacked up and ready to rock. What do they do? They bust it for an 84-yard touchdown.

“It just took the wind out of our sails.”

Thorson turned a short reception into a 62-yard touchdown to give Shanley a 30-6 lead with 11:48 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The game was played with a running clock in the closing four minutes due to the Deacons’ large lead.

It wasn’t what many expected from Shanley against the top-ranked team in the state.

But this season has been unexpected throughout for the Deacons.

Shanley had their 20-game winning streak snapped with a loss to Fargo North in Week 2. The team then suffered a 48-14 loss at Grafton that might have had many thinking the Deacons would no longer be a contender.

However, a 20-14 overtime win against Kindred last week and the shocker against Wahpeton should lead to some re-evaluation of Shanley’s status.

Wahpeton remains a contender despite the loss. It proved it could move the ball with its running game, and Medhaug is a dynamic playmaker.

But too many turnovers doomed the Huskies’ chances.

“We still expect to win every game,” Rivard said. “We know we can do it. We’ve got great players, great athletes and great coaching. It’s up to us to get the wins. We weren’t so much worried about the winning streak heading into the year. It’s all about getting another state championship.”

Wahpeton 0 0 6 0– 6

Shanley 9 0 14 14–37

FS-safety

FS-Rivard 11 run (Strom kick)

FS-Rivard 84 run (Strom kick)

FS-Rivard 6 run (Strom kick)

FS-Thorson 62 pass from Salentine (Strom kick)

W-Lunneborg 11 pass from Kath (run failed)

FS-Stasch 2 run (Strom kick)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: W, Medhaug 17-108, Gripentrog 9-37, Lingen 8-34, Kath 17-47, Christensen 2-9. FS, Rivard 12-134, Stasch 8-31, Thorson 11-89, Nelson 2-6, Laske 1-9.

PASSING: W, Kath 4-13-1 20. Medhaug 0-1-0 0. FS, Salentine 3-7-0 90.

RECEIVING: W, Lunneborg 2-17, Gilles 1-5, Medhaug 1-(-2). FS, Thorson 3-90.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com