Caleb Kuznia, dealing with a hip flexor injury, was kept out of West Fargo Sheyenne’s first two football games. Quarterback Keaton Mahnke knew he would be OK for their game against Devils Lake, however, earlier in the week. Kuznia played musical chairs and “was flying around the bleachers” during a homecoming event.
“He was looking pretty quick,” Mahnke said with a smile. “So I told him to bring out the cleats and lace it back up.”
Kuznia came back from the injury and totaled 109 total yards for two touchdowns to lead the Mustangs to a 41-33 win in their Eastern Dakota Conference opener and homecoming.
“It felt really good. It honestly sucked seeing your teammates playing together, and you’re just sitting there watching. It’s not fun,” Kuznia said. “It felt good.”
Kuznia set the pace with the first score of the game on a 6-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, Mahnke found Kuznia over the middle of the field for a 79-yard scoring pass and catch.
“(Kuznia) is a sparkplug for us,” Mustangs head coach Jeremy Newton said. “He helped us move the ball. We did pretty well offensively, and that’s a big part of it.”
West Fargo Sheyenne totaled 499 yards of total offense while Devils Lake racked up 344.
The Mustangs held the Firebirds to 24 yards rushing while West Fargo Sheyenne, which was led by Jason Gaulrapp's 93 yards and one TD, went off for 323 yards rushing.
Hayden Reynolds also scored two touchdowns on 11 carries for 61 yards.
“The offense played well tonight, but there is a lot more improvements we could make,” Mahnke said. “We all kind of let off the gas pedal at the end, and it almost came back to hurt us.”
After falling 21-7 at halftime, Devils Lake scored 26 points in the final two quarters to get within a touchdown. Zach Dahlen led Devils Lake (0-3, 0-1 EDC) with 192 yards receiving for three touchdowns.
“I knew we had to start passing, and we did,” Dahlen said. “Then we started making plays down the stretch.”
Despite a late rally by Devils Lake -- Firebirds quarterback Jacob Mertens threw three of his five touchdown passes in the fourth quarter -- West Fargo Sheyenne (2-1, 1-0) held off Devils Lake to grab a winning record for the first time this season.
West Fargo Sheyenne will play its next contest in a highly anticipated matchup at in-town rival West Fargo, which is undefeated and is ranked No. 1 in the state, at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16.
But Kuznia sees it as just another week of preparation.
“We’re never satisfied, but at this point in time we’re happy to be 1-0 in the EDC,” Newton said, “and that’s all that really matters. Every win in the EDC is important, that’s for sure.”
DL 0 7 7 19 -- 33
WFS 7 14 7 13 -- 41
WFS-Kuznia 6 run (Fenelon kick)
WFS-Kuznia 79 pass from Mahnke (Fenelon kick)
WFS-Gaulrapp 15 run (Fenelon kick)
DL-Dahlen 34 pass from Mertens (Muroni kick)
WFS-Reynolds 5 run (Fenelon kick)
DL-Dahlen 10 pass from Mertens (Muroni kick)
WFS-Shorma 49 pass from Mahnke (Fenelon kick)
DL-Bently 6 pass from Mertens (Muroni kick)
WFS-Reynolds 4 run (pass failed)
DL-Dahlen 15 pass from Mertens (kick failed)
DL-Martin 5 pass from Mertens (kick failed)