Canaan Fagerland said he slept in until 11 a.m., last Sunday and then spent most of the rest of the day being a couch potato.
The junior running back-linebacker from Shiloh Christian certainly earned this day of rest.
Fagerland put in a full day’s work and then some the previous day, helping the Skyhawks to a 35-30 9-man semifinal victory over previously-unbeaten New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin. He carried 48 times for 297 yards and five touchdowns on offense, and intercepted two passes on defense.
Fagerland, who had 164 carries in Shiloh's previous 11 games, was involved in 48 of his team’s 61 offensive plays and accounted for 297 of its 387 total yards.
“I was really surprised when I found out I carried the ball that much. It was unreal,” Fagerland said. “When you’re out there you don’t really think about how many carries or how many yards you have. You just keep playing and hope you’re doing enough to help your team. But 48 carries … that’s like half a season for most guys.”
Shiloh coach Funnon Barker said Fagerland did what is expected of a team’s best player.
“Canaan carried most of the load for us and he was glad to do it,” said Barker, whose team is 11-1 and will face unbeaten Wyndmere-Lidgerwood in today’s 9-man state championship game at the Fargodome. “Our game plan going in was to control the ball and limit New Salem’s possessions, and we were able to do that because of Canaan’s running and the tremendous job our offensive line was doing. Canaan also had a big day on defense. You expect your best players to step up in big moments. That was Canaan last Saturday.”
Fagerland made one key play after another in the semifinal, but two of the biggest were made in the final minute of each half. After New Salem-AGU got within five points, 13-8, with 1:23 remaining in the first half, Fagerland broke free for a 64-yard run to the Holsteins’ 1-yard line. He scored on the following play, giving the Skyhawks a 19-8 lead.
“At first, we were thinking of just running out the clock and going into halftime with a five-point lead,” Fagerland said. “But the offensive line opened up a big hole for me and I took it to (the Holsteins’) 1-yard line. We were able to put another six points on the board and that turned out to be the difference.”
Later, with Shiloh clinging to a 35-30 lead in the closing minutes of the contest, the Holsteins marched 70-plus yards to the Skyhawks’ 10. On second-and-goal, Fagerland intercepted an Evan Henke pass in the end zone with under a minute remaining, ending the threat.
“We needed to make a stop and Canaan stepped up,” Barker said. “Huge, huge play.”
Fagerland is one of 9-man football's top running backs, statistically. He has rushed for 1,723 and 24 touchdowns (212 carries), and caught 16 passes for 320 yards and three six-pointers. Defensively, he's tied for the team lead in tackles with 58. He has 51 solo stops and three interceptions.
With one season remaining, Fagerland has already had a highly-productive high school career, with more than 3,000 yards rushing and 700 receiving. He said he has been blessed with excellent blocking up front. Clearing the way this season are ends Jonas Mitzel and Bartholomew Ogbu, tackles Austin Hartman and Josh Lardy, and center Jon Dolbec.
“The offensive line gets all of the credit as far as I’m concerned. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without them,” Fagerland said. “It’s a great feeling knowing that whenever I get the ball, there’s going to be a hole for me to run through. They were outstanding on Saturday.”
The Skyhawks are playing in the state championship game for the second time in program history. Shiloh lost to Cavalier in the 2014 final. Wyndmere-Lidgerwood is making its first state title game appearance since it captured the crown in 2010. The Warbirds, 11-0, were ranked No. 2 in the final 9-man poll. They edged No. 1 Cavalier 36-34 in the other semifinal game.
Wyndmere-Lidgerwood boasts a high-powered offense led by quarterback Wyatt Harles. Harles has completed 99 of 150 passes for 1,711 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 546 yards and seven scores. Hunter Churchill, Tyrell Guy and Luke Foertsch have 482, 423 and 378 yards rushing, respectively. The top receivers are Andrew Vasquez (30-487), Foertsch (22-533) and Ismael Vasquez (20-326).
The Warbirds have many of the same players that played in a quarterfinal game between Wyndmere-Lidgerwood and Shiloh in 2016. The Skyhawks rallied for a 46-41 victory.
“They were a very explosive team last year and that (quarterfinal) game turned out to be a shootout. Fortunately, we were able to make a few more plays than they did,” Barker said. “They have a lot of the same players back and their offense is a big reason why they’re undefeated and in the state championship game. It’s important that we control the ball and limit their possessions, just like we did against New Salem.”