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Heath Hotzler, Published September 11 2008

Small backs flaunt huge performances

A pair of diminutive running backs

came up with unbelievably big games during prep football action

last week.

Wahpeton’s Ryan Smith, a 5-foot-7, 163-pound junior, carried the ball 32 times for a school-record

388 yards and six touchdowns in a 61-46 comeback win against Jamestown.

Oakes 5-8, 180-pound junior halfback Jason Hagen had 22 carries for 285 yards and six scores in a 68-14, 9-man victory against Ellendale.

According to each school’s coaches, both players achieved the marks in similar fashion.

“Ryan (Smith) has tremendous field vision,” Wahpeton’s Mike McCall said. “He has the ability to see things as they develop and make the right cuts.”

“He’s showing a lot more speed than he showed last year,” Oakes’ Shawn Sagert said of Hagen. “He’s pretty fast, but he just has good vision. He’s kind of a power runner who can also make moves.”

Smith’s 388 rushing yards broke Mike Prochnow’s 14-year-old school record of 284. His six scores were one better than the previous single-game mark set by former Huskies standout Adam Roland in 1998.

Smith also had a school-record 410 total yards with the addition of a 22-yard reception. Prochnow also held the previous record with his 284 rushing yards in 1994.

Smith scored on runs of 59, 79, 1, 12, 18 and 67 yards.

McCall said the Huskies’ formidable offensive line created huge holes for Smith, who was able to reach the secondary many times untouched before making a move to create several more yards.

The Wahpeton line of Sam Trap, John Smykowski, Shane Ringdahl, Kyle Iverson and Sean Mitterling averages 240 pounds.

“He had a great group of guys blocking up front,” McCall said. “… We’ve had very good running backs, and he’s toward the top of that list if he continues to develop and grow like he has. To see what happened the other night was just special.”

Hagen has had similar totals in the past, Sagert said.

Sagert said Hagen eclipsed 300 yards last year in a win against Steele-Dawson.

However, Friday’s performance was no less special.

The junior scored on runs of 41, 6, 13, 6, 5 and 57 yards.

And he could have had more.

The Tornadoes had the ball inside Ellendale’s

5-yard line late in the first half, but chose to let the clock run out and head to halftime.

Hagen finished with more than 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Sagert said Oakes’ offensive line and stacked backfield helped Hagen run wild last week.

Senior halfback Josh Kelly and senior fullback Josten Coleman helped the Tornadoes pile up more than 400 rushing yards.

“(Hagen) can be one of the best in the state if he stays healthy and works hard,” Sagert said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what he can do.”

Readers can reach Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562 or hhotzler@forumcomm.com. Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com