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Prep fooball: Riders defeat Deacons

On a punt early in the first quarter, Grand Forks Red River returner Elby Pope waved his arms and yelled "poison" to tell teammates to stay away from the ball.

Ben Prout
Grand Forks Red River's Ben Prout (7) goes airborne to make a tackle on Fargo Shanley's Stefan Webber during the first half of Friday night's season opener at Cushman Field. Herald photo by Sarah Kolberg.

On a punt early in the first quarter, Grand Forks Red River returner Elby Pope waved his arms and yelled "poison" to tell teammates to stay away from the ball.

"But the ball took a perfect bounce right to me," Pope said. "So I took it, made a cut and no one was there."

Pope took the ball 50 yards into the end zone. It was the first time the Roughriders touched the ball this season and a sign of big-play ability to come.

Red River scored four touchdowns -- on plays of 90, 64, 50 and 24 yards -- to beat Fargo Shanley 28-19 on Friday night at Cushman Field in the season opener for both teams.

"(Big plays) is something we kind of expect from those guys," Red River coach Vyrn Muir said. "We got the ball in the hands of the right kids to make those kinds of plays."

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Red River scored on its first two specials teams plays of the year. After Pope's 50-yard punt return, Luke Schreiner returned a kickoff 90 yards for a score in the second quarter.

Schreiner, a senior who is out for football after two seasons off, breezed through the wedge and stiff-armed Shanley kicker Myles Montplaisir at the 40-yard line en route to the end zone.

"I'll admit," Muir said, "those two returns surprised me."

Red River also scored on a 64-yard pass play to Pope in the third quarter. Quarterback Sam King found Pope over the middle on a short route. Pope darted past defenders and teammate Matt Lee made a key block downfield to spring Pope to make it 21-12 Red River.

The Riders' final big play all but iced the win. King hit wide-open tight end Zach Solheim over the middle for a 24-yard touchdown with 5:45 left in the fourth quarter. The play gave the Riders a 28-19 edge.

"Their speedy kids made big plays," Shanley coach Steve Laqua said. "Red River has very talented skill kids. They're a much-improved team from last year. Red River's speed is going to do this to more teams than us this year."

In between the big plays, Shanley made things close. Deacons running back Stefan Webber, who finished with 150 rushing yards, had touchdown runs of 53 and 15 yards.

Webber's 15-yard run with 10:01 left in the fourth quarter cut Red River's lead to 21-19.

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"(Webber) runs hard," Muir said. "We tried to make an adjustment at halftime. We were able to slow him down a little bit in the second half."

Red River answered Webber's second score with a 10-play drive, which was capped by Solheim's touchdown reception.

Running backs Tyler Gefroh and Ben Prout helped the Riders eat up the fourth-quarter clock. King also had a key quarterback sneak for a first down on fourth-and-inches during the drive.

Shanley's final hopes were dashed when Montplaisir, who ended with 154 passing yards, was picked off by Prout with 1:32 left in the game.

Related Topics: FOOTBALLPREP SPORTS
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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