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Shiloh's strong season has come against a serious schedule

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Shiloh Christian quarterback Joey Desir throws during a practice in the fall. Desir accounted for five touchdowns last week against Killdeer.

Shiloh Christian has won a lot of football games with Funnon Barker in charge, 99 in 12 seasons, to be exact.

The seven victories the Skyhawks have earned this fall, including four on the road, have been among the most challenging, however.

Shiloh's strong 7-2 record wasn't even good enough for a home playoff game in a loaded Region 4 of Class 11B despite the Skyhawks owning a road victory over top-seeded Bowman County (8-1). Beulah, also 8-1, got the No. 2 seed based on its win over Shiloh.

"This was the toughest and most competitive region we've played in since I've been head coach in either 9-man or 11-man," said Barker, who's coached the Skyhawks to a .779 winning percentage during his tenure. "There are some teams on the outside looking in that were very good teams. It came down to one or two mistakes and having the ball bounce our way a few times to where we were able to get some big wins against some really good teams.

"We're really proud of our kids and how they've played this season. We knew with the caliber of teams we were going to be playing it wasn't going to be easy, but the credit goes to them. They've played well."

It hasn't been a straight line to 7-2, either. With a largely young and inexperienced roster, which includes just six seniors, the Skyhawks also have dealt with injuries late in the season. Star running back Michael Fagerland has been limited of late, forcing quarterback Carter Seifert to a hybrid H-back role and Joey Desir in at quarterback.

Given his chance, Desir turned in a stellar performance. The junior QB threw three touchdown passes and ran for two as the Skyhawks prevailed in Killdeer, 35-28.

"Joey did a tremendous job," Barker said. "He's shown in practice he has the ability to make plays. We ended up throwing the ball probably more than we intended to, but it was great to see him step up when we needed it."

Barker is hopeful Fagerland, who averages a whopping 8.2 yards per carry, will be able to fulfill his typical role Saturday as the Skyhawks square off with 8-1 Des Lacs-Burlington. Fagerland, just a sophomore, has 1,115 yards rushing, 436 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns.

The Skyhawks have gotten key contributions out of several underclassmen besides Fagerland and Seifert (73-139 1,065 yards, 11 TD, 7 INT).

After not playing last season, sophomore Atticus Wilkinson has been disruptive on the D-line.

"He's stepped up for us particularly with his pass rush," Barker said of Wilkinson, who leads the team with four sacks.

Noah Schuette, another 10th-grader on the line, has graded out highly.

"He's stepped in as a two-way starter and has gotten better as the season has went on," Barker said. 

Same is true of Eli Thompson, another sophomore, who starts at D-back and wide receiver. Thompson's three TD catches are tied for second-most with Isaac Emmel, yes, another 10th-grader. Emmel is the Skyhawks' leading tackler with 77 stops. Thompson also has a team-best four interceptions.

"Eli Thompson has played well. He does a lot for us on both sides of the ball and in the return game," Barker said.

The team's seniors have done their part.

Isaac Heringer has 52 tackles and 198 yards receiving, while Ethan Gerving's 53 tackles are second-most on the squad.

In a way, the Skyhawks are the modern team with several interchangeable parts, which comes in handy when injuries mount.

"We do have a lot good football players in that we can ask them to do different things and they're open to trying it," Barker said. "At the same time, you need to be able to go out and execute and to their credit they've been able to do what we've asked them to do for the most part."

Barker expects to have a full deck for Saturday's 1:30 p.m. kickoff against Des Lacs-Burlington, which has three shutouts on the season and has only lost to Minot Ryan. 

"We're going to their house for a reason and it's because they're a really, really good football team and they've beaten a bunch of good teams this year," Barker said. "I think based on the teams we've played, it does give us a lot of confidence that we can compete with good teams, especially in tight games because that's what you expect in the playoffs: a four-quarter game that will probably come down to turnovers and who can limit their mistakes.

"It's a really big challenge for us against a really good team but we're excited. It's the playoffs and I think we'll be ready to play well."

Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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