Long drives were the name of the game for Shiloh Christian on Saturday.
The Skyhawks’ ground-and-pound offense, with the occasional big play in the passing game, powered Shiloh past St. John 41-18 and into the 9-man quarterfinals.
“We knew it’d be a tough game with as physical as they are, but we were able to come out on top,” Shiloh running back Canaan Fagerland said. “We thought if we were able to win, the only thing that would make it better is if Beach won … it turned out to be a great day.”
The Skyhawks host Beach on Saturday at Miller Field.
It was a three-phase win for Shiloh. Offensively, Fagerland ran for 168 yards and had a field-flipping 67-yard punt in the second quarter. Another special teams play loomed large in the second half.
Just a one-score game in the third quarter, sophomore Evan Baker shot the gap and blocked Bryor Parisien’s punt. It was the second straight week Baker came up with a blocked punt.
Shiloh cashed in Baker’s block with a big play on fourth down. At the St. John’s 17, Jaden Mitzel found Mike Kuehn wide open in the left flat. Kuehn made the catch and outraced the defense to the pylon for the score. Mitzel hit big Bartholomew Ogbu for the two-pointer and it was 28-12.
“That was a huge play in the game,” Shiloh coach Funnon Barker said of Baker's blocked pun. “That flipped field position and changed momentum.”
Shiloh had three scoring drives of 10 plays or more.
“That’s the heart and soul of Shiloh football,” Fagerland said. “(St. John) is big up front. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but our line did a great job giving us room to run.”
The Skyhawks’ first long scoring drive finished on a big play.
After 11 straight runs, Mitzel’s first throw of the game resulted in a 21-yard touchdown when Trey Brunelle plucked the ball out of the air despite tight coverage on the play.
“Obviously, our main thing is to run the ball, but we want to be able to mix in the pass,” Barker said. “We were able to come up with some important completions at the right time.”
St. John ran just nine plays in the first half and only one netted much of anything.
But on the Woodchucks’ second play from scrimmage, Kyler McGillis found space on the edge and sprinted 79 yards for a game-tying touchdown at the 4:35 mark of the opening quarter.
“I was kinda out of breath at the end,” McGillis said. “Guess I had too many root beers.”
After each team punted, Shiloh went back on the march. This time, Fagerland capped an 11-play, clock-draining drive with a one-yard blast up the middle.
The Skyhawks forced another quick three-and-out and took over on the St. John 41-yard line. In what amounted to a quarter-killing drive, Fagerland dove in from 1-yard out to make it 18-6 with just eight seconds left before halftime. The two-point pass from Mitzel to Kuehn made it 20-6 at the break.
St. John came out firing after halftime with McGillis in the middle of everything.
After the speedster broke off a 27-yard run, two plays later the Woodchucks went to some razzle dazzle. On a halfback pass, McGillis threw a perfect strike to Dalton Prouty for a 27-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 20-12.
“We worked on that play in practice,” McGillis said. “(Dalton) is my best friend. He probably would've been mad at me if I hadn’t gotten him the ball.”
McGillis had 144 yards rushing, 37 receiving and 27 throwing in an impressive, albeit season-ending performance.
“We tried as hard as we could. We knew it would be a tough game,” McGillis said. “Shiloh is a very good team.”
The Skyhawks salted the game away late.
Already up 28-12, Mitzel powered in from six yards out to push the lead to three scores with 8:45 remaining. Fagerland, who also had 32 yards receiving, scored his third touchdown of the game from 30 yards for good measure.
“It was a great team win today,” Fagerland said. “Anytime you win in the playoffs you’re thrilled because you get to play another game.”