FARGO – In Saturday night’s state Class A boys championship game at the SHAC, Century High School roots ran deep – on both sidelines.
Bismarck native Tom Kirchoffner, a Century and University of Mary graduate, coached his West Fargo Sheyenne Mustangs against the school he grew up playing for.
The Patriots got the upper hand this time, 63-56, but Sheyenne clearly is a force to be reckoned with for the long term.
When asked if it was awkward or strange facing his alma mater for all the marbles, Kirchoffner answered a convincing, “No.”
“I wanted to go against them because we want to go against the best,” said Kirchoffner, who has coached Sheyenne since Day 1 of the program in 2013. “I have a lot of respect for their program. I want to play them every year because they’re a great team and it’s going to challenge our guys. When you face Century, you’re going to be tested in every way and that’s what you need to get better.”
Kirchoffner, with his father Tom Sr. seated right next to him on the bench, has turned Sheyenne into a perennial power in rapid fashion. Picked sixth in the East Region preseason poll, the Mustangs won 22 games and advanced to the state championship game.
“We only had one returning starter … this is a very connected group,” Kirchoffner said. “They play well together and play for each other. This was a great season and we’re really proud of what they accomplished.”
Sheyenne’s state tournament path was filled with familiar faces for Kirchoffner. In the first round the Mustangs met St. Mary’s and coach Brent De Kok, like Kirchoffner a Century graduate.
“I was in the St. Mary’s feeder program growing up and it’s fun to see what Brent’s doing with that program,” Kirchoffner said.
In the semifinals, it was an all-West Fargo affair as the Mustangs beat the Packers, 69-63. Prior to taking over the Sheyenne program, Kirchoffner was an assistant coach at West Fargo High, one of many stops on a busy and diverse coaching career.
The win over the Packers lined up a championship showdown against his alma mater, in what Kirchoffner knew would be his team’s stiffest test.
“Century is a very good team. They don’t have many weaknesses,” he said. “I’m really proud of our guys, we were right there.
“We feel really good about the future of the program.”