Three takeaways from New Rockford-Sheyenne's 42-14 Region 4 opener against Four Winds

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

FORT TOTTEN – If you wanted a tale of two games on polar opposite ends of the spectrum, look no further than Four Winds and New Rockford-Sheyenne last week. 

Four Winds vs. New Rockford-Sheyenne Football (9/8/22)

Practically everything went well for the Indians in what amounted to a 50-6 rout against the Larimore Polar Bears on Sep. 2, spearheaded by five total touchdowns from quarterback Kashton Keja Jr. 

Practically everything went wrong for the Rockets in their contest against Cavalier on the same date, though, as the Tornadoes breezed their way toward a 32-0 shutout in New Rockford. 

And so, the context surrounding Four Winds and New Rockford-Sheyenne came to a head Thursday evening in Fort Totten. While the Indians had the experience and depth to overwhelm the Rockets on paper, the latter ran away with a 42-14 road win against the former to kick off Region 4 play for both sides. 

Here are three takeaways from New Rockford-Sheyenne’s (2-2, 1-0) victory over Four Winds (2-2, 0-1) on Sep. 8: 

1. Not going away quietly – a Rocket motto to live by 

From an outsider’s perspective, 2022 might have looked like a rebuilding year for the Rockets. Losing a decent-sized chunk of their experience (and, more specifically, their scoring experience) in the form of Nick Berglund, Koby Duda and Kaden Jensen might have led to such a conclusion being made. A 36-22 loss on the road to Nelson County on Aug. 19 might have affirmed such a suspicion. A 32-0 defeat to Cavalier on Sep. 2 (as mentioned already) might have even re-affirmed it. 

But New Rockford-Sheyenne’s showing on both ends of the ball Thursday evening erased any assumptions previously made. The double-action wingback battery of Haydon Meier and Connor Knatterud combined to score five rushing touchdowns (two for Meier and three for Knatterud). 

However, what spoke out the most in New Rockford-Sheyenne’s offensive output came midway through the second quarter. After a Rocket fumble resulted in an Indians touchdown – and 8-6 Four Winds lead, at that – Meier responded with a 50+ yard rushing touchdown on New Rockford-Sheyenne’s first snap on their ensuing drive. The Rockets outscored the Indians, 28-8, the rest of the way. 

“It was really big after we had a big mistake, and we just came back,” Meier said after the game. “We wanted to just smack them in the face and put a score in there, and that was huge for us momentum-wise. Just confidence-wise, big booster. Yeah, it was just a big play to get us really rolling.” 

New Rockford-Sheyenne wingback Haydon Meier (listed) practices before his team's road game against Four Winds on Sep. 8.

“Like I said in the huddle there, a little bit of adversity, coming out in a short week,” New Rockford-Sheyenne head coach Elliott Belquist said after the game. They came out ready to play. It took us a few drives to get going. We came down the first one and then we had to fumble the second one. We didn’t let it bother us. We made plays on defense. We made big plays on defense to get us the ball back, and that’s what we [have] been preaching all year. Get us the ball back, and hopefully, we can keep their offense off the field.” 

2. Penalties Galore: The Four Winds vs. New Rockford-Sheyenne Story 

If you blinked, you could have missed the first quarter. After the opening 12 minutes breezed by without much bother, the game started to slow down. The culprit, of course, came from the almost non-stop laundry. Both teams combined more than two dozen penalties during the contest. 

“We’ll see on film whether there was, but our boys didn’t play a clean game at all,” Four Winds co-head coach Travis Mertens said after the game. “I mean, we were too high on tackling, we were undisciplined on our assignments. They whooped our butt because, essentially, they’re disciplined [and] they played harder than us. After that first drive, they just came out. They knew it was a region game. I thought our boys knew it was a region game…I’m guessing that they know it was a region game, but, you know, when you get into region play, you [have to] be so much more tightened up, and you should be clicking and clicking and clicking. Right now, we were not clicking tonight.” 

Deng Deng (#5, right) goes for a 40+ yard inside slant against New Rockford-Sheyenne before a penalty called the play back.

The Rockets were also not immune to such mistakes. After all, a pair of double-digit yard penalties late in the fourth quarter allowed the Indians to collect a late-game rushing touchdown will 2:11 to go in regulation. 

Despite the inconsistencies in playing clean football, Belquist appreciated what his team was able to accomplish, especially when it came to team depth. 

“Couple big ones there to move us back,” Belquist said. “That’s something we preach, is keeping on schedule. We had those bad passes, but then we made big plays to get us out of them, so that was good to see. [A] couple of guys that aren’t starters came in and made big plays with Kage [Walford] in that touchdown and Luke Yri with that third-and-long pass down the sideline. So, it was nice to see those guys step up.” 

3. Adversity: Indians still attempting to conquer it on the football field 

Four Winds vs. New Rockford-Sheyenne Football (9/8/22)

There is no denying Four Winds’ success on the basketball court. An undefeated 2021-22 campaign and Class B State Championship only proves such a fact. 

However, consistent success indoors has not yet translated to consistent success outdoors. Should the Indians wish to take the next step, they must handle adversity as smoothly as possible.

“Football is the ultimate team sport,” Four Winds co-head coach Mark Bishop said after the game. “So, what’s really tough for our guys to see is, ‘I’m doing my job. Why isn’t it working?’ In basketball, you can have one guy just take it over. You can’t do that on the football field…If that one guy isn’t blocking, or that one guy doesn’t catch the ball, well…it doesn’t matter if all eight other guys are doing their job. It’s the ultimate team sport. So, it’s really tough for them to, ‘Well, I’m doing my job. Why isn’t it [working].’ We have to be able to fight through that adversity.” 

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (jcrane@gannett.com), Instagram (johnbcranesports) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.