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First Down Friday: Shanley tops Central Cass in battle of unbeatens

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CASSELTON, N.D. — Last season, when Fargo Shanley starting quarterback Kaden Kueneman went down and Cade Busek was called to step in as quarterback, he fumbled on his first play.

Busek got the call again Friday and answered, leading No. 2 Shanley to a 40-22 win over No. 3 Central Cass in North Dakota Class 2A football.

"Coach just kind of point and said, 'Hey, you're gonna go, man,'" said Busek, who rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries Friday. "That's how I was told, so I was ready to go. Last year, when I came in against Watford (City), I fumbled the first play. I was so nervous. I didn't know what I was going to do. This year, I was ready for this and I expected my chance to come."

For now, Class 2A still belongs to Shanley and Bismarck St. Mary's. Shanley handed the Squirrels their first loss this season. It was the seventh straight time the Deacons have beaten the Squirrels.

"We didn't play our best football," Central Cass coach Nate Lutkemeier said. "Hats off to Shanley. That's a really good football team over there. They made a lot of plays tonight, more than we did."

The first quarter was essentially a nightmare for Central Cass (3-1). Shanley's Andy Clark returned the opening kick 78 yards to the Central Cass 13-yard line. Six play laters, on fourth-and-goal from the 3, Busek punched the ball in to put Shanley up 6-0.

Central Cass had a bad snap on a punt attempt on the ensuing drive and Austin Manuel brought down the punter at the Central Cass 23-yard line. Kueneman found Haley Bucholz in the corner of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown pass on the next play to make it 13-0.

Clark intercepted Central Cass quarterback Jonah Lietz on the next play from scrimmage and the following drive for the Squirrels ended with a Clark interception in the end zone.

"I typically don't contribute a ton, but I knew when I got to step up I could do it," Clark said. "I just want to make the most of my opportunity. It meant a lot to me because this was a big game for us."

Central Cass found the end zone on the second play of the second quarter when Lietz hit Braeden Knutson on a bubble screen for a 12-yard touchdown pass. The Squirrels used some trickery on the two-point conversion, as Lietz tossed the ball to Andrew Volk, who threw to JJ Albrecht to cut the Shanley lead to 13-8. Central Cass would not score again until the fourth quarter.

The final drive of the first half for Shanley gave all momentum to the Deacons. They faked a punt for a 23-yard pass from Busek to Braden DeKeyser on fourth-and-4 to keep the drive alive. Kueneman broke a tackle and hit Manuel for a 28-yard catch on fourth-and-10. Kueneman wrapped up the drive with a 1-yard keeper to put the Deacons up 20-8 with less than two minutes remaining in the half.

Kueneman did not play at all in the second half, but the Deacons (4-0) didn't miss a beat. On Shanley's first drive of the third quarter Busek's number was called on fourth-and-2 from Shanley's own 36-yard line. It was a simple quarterback sneak, but no one was in front of Busek, as he went untouched for a 64-yard touchdown run and a 28-8 lead.

Shanley recovered the ensuing kickoff and Busek led another touchdown drive. Central Cass found the end zone twice in the fourth quarter, but it was far too late.

"We can't start better than we did in the first quarter and that's what you got to do," Busek said. "This was about us."

FS 13 7 13 7—40

CC 0 8 0 14—22

FS-Busek 3 run (Motschenbacher kick)

FS-Bucholz 23 pass from Kueneman (run failed)

CC-Knutson 12 pass from Lietz (Albrecht pass from Volk)

FS-Kueneman 1 run (Motschenbacher kick)

FS-Busek 64 run (pass failed)

FS-Manuel 9 run (Motschenbacher kick)

CC-Volk 1 run (Albrecht pass from Volk)

CC-Vetsch 6 pass from Lietz (run failed)

FS-Manuel 5 run (Motschenbacher kick)