After falling susceptible to the pass last week in a loss to Fargo Shanley, the No. 4-ranked Wahpeton football team made a defensive play or two. Or five.
The Huskies intercepted five Kindred passes Friday night, returning two for touchdowns as the defense led the way to an easy 34-0 road victory.
“Whenever you have a loss, you want to get out there and play again right away,” Wahpeton coach Brian Dokken said. “The week seemed like an eternity. We needed to get out.”
The scoring didn’t start until the second quarter, when Tyler Gripentrog found the goal line from five yards out to make it 7-0. Despite the lead, it was a generally flat half for the Huskies, Dokken said.
Late in the second half, Wahpeton blew an opportunity to extend the lead when it was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Kindred picked up a first down from the shadow of the end zone and looked for a quick strike to tie the game, running a trick play. But Wahpeton’s Cole Gilles wasn’t fooled, intercepting the pass for a pick-six, giving the Huskies their touchdown, anyway. Just like that, it was 14-0 at half.
Gilles and defensive end Mike Dassenko each intercepted balls for touchdowns Friday, alongside interceptions from teammates Zach Reiff and a pair from Tyler Gripentrog, totalling 147 return yards, more than Kindred (123 yards) gained on the ground.
“We’re peaking at the right time, especially in the secondary. It’s nice to have us hitting and guarding pretty well,” Dokken said.
Wahpeton wasn’t done with the big plays, and made a statement to start the second half, as Brock Lingen returned the opening kick 95 yards for a touchdown, increasing the lead to 21-0.
“We challenged the kids, and they came out in the second half a lot more fired up,” Dokken said.
From there, it was smooth sailing for the Huskies, as Dassenko returned his interception for a touchdown shortly after. Gripentrog capped off his great day with a second touchdown to make it 34-0.
It wasn’t all gravy for the Huskies, however, as the passing game again struggled mightily. For the second-consecutive game, Wahpeton failed to complete a single pass, going 0-9 Friday.
“We were running the ball, and they were putting nine guys in the box, saying, ‘throw it.’ And we couldn’t do it,” Dokken said. “That was the one downside to our performance. That’s something we gotta get figured out. It’s definitely a concern. We really need to work on it and put an emphasis on it.”
Despite the passing woes, Wahpeton still stands strong at 5-1. The Huskies will be challenged next Friday when they host No. 3 Grafton, a team that gave them fits last season.
“They’re at the top of the conference, definitely,” Dokken said of Grafton. “They lost a lot of players, but they’ve got some core guys. We feel we’ll have a good defensive plan against them.”