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Posted by Guest (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/29/2012 11:10:47 AM

By Brian Jerzak
John’s Journal correspondent

Three wins, one win, three wins. Those have been the total number of wins for the Farmington Tigers football team in each of the last three years. For the most part, head coach Mark Froehling’s teams have been solid, but the past few years they have struggled. Not so much this year. The Tigers went into their homecoming game Friday against a one-loss Chaska Hawks team calm, confident and undefeated.

This night was everything I love about high school football. In a town that loves its high school football there was not a cloud in the sky at a beautiful, jam-packed stadium. There was a rowdy student section, an amped-up marching band and two conference rivals with only one loss between them. Oh yeah, and the game came down to basically the last play before it was decided.

The game ball was presented by members of the Farmington cross-country team who ran the ball from Chaska to Farmington in time for the game. Running would be the theme of the first half with both teams going up and down the field scoring points. Farmington found a lot of success shifting its two tight ends to the same side of the formation and running senior Athen Ashton behind them. Senior quarterback Darren Beenken was extremely accurate, especially hitting his mid-range receivers. Even when the offense stalled, they were able to put up points because of junior defensive back and placekicker Reid Taubenheim. He connected on two field goals of more than 40 yards and was a perfect 3-for-3 on extra points.

Seniors are a big reason for the Tigers’ big start.

“We have more kids coming back with experience this year and a pretty good group of athletes who have been working hard,” Froehling said. “We had a stretch of time when we played some pretty dominant football and that fell off for a few years, but that’s high school football, it kind of comes and goes. This year’s kids are great football players and awesome kids. We returned seven starters on offense, most of the offensive line is seniors and two all-conference guys in Beenken and Ashton.”

Chaska basically stayed with Farmington score for score. The trio of senior Kolby Seiffert at wide receiver, sophomore quarterback Justin Arnold and junior fullback Justin Goeman kept the Tiger defense off balance the entire first half. In the shotgun the entire game, the Hawks’ offense spread out the defense and found plenty of holes in the Tiger defense.

With Farmington up 20-13 late in the first half, Arnold got loose and sprinted 74 yards for the tying touchdown with just over two minutes to go in the half. With the way the first half was going, you just got the feeling the scoring wasn’t over. Farmington put together one more drive.

They moved the ball to the 25-yard line with just over 20 seconds left in the half. Beenken, who was 13 for 16 in the first half, and junior wide receiver Mackinley Bassett made the play of the game. Beenken fumbled the shotgun snap but kept his cool and gathered up the ball. He rolled to the right, away from the pressure and threw the ball toward the high school, which acts as the stadium wall. Streaking across the back of the end zone, Bassett made a diving catch in the corner to give Farmington a 27-20 halftime lead.

Halftime adjustments are a cliché that is overused when it comes to football, but it was obvious in the second half. Both defenses were pushed around in the first half but came out more physical and more aggressive in the third quarter. After a combined 47 points in the first half, neither team put up a single point in the third quarter.

“We knew they were going to slant and bring pressure (on defense) in the second half and they did that,” said Froehling. “We moved the ball so we could flip the field, we just couldn’t get it into the end zone. Defensively we just had to do a better job doing our responsibilities. That is a tough offense with a great quarterback and a great tailback. You’ve got a lot of people to watch. They spread the field and you’ve got to be able to catch up to them.”

Chaska took advantage of a Farmington mistake to score the first points of the second half. The Tigers held the Hawks and forced them to punt, but a roughing-the-punter penalty gave the Hawks the ball back. A long run by Goeman set up a 31-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to cut the home team’s lead to 27-23. Farmington got behind its veteran offensive line to put together one more drive to attempt to kill the clock. Seniors Joshua Boatwright, Nate Retterath and Alex Witkowski, along with juniors Joshua Patterson and Ryan Gowen, made life easy for Beenken and Ashton – who had over 100 yards rushing in the first half - all night and almost salted the game away late in the fourth quarter.

“We were successful both running and passing (in the first half),” said Ashton. “The defense really came through in the second half and played a good game. They came out in the first half a little bit too riled up and that gets to people sometimes. In the second half they came out a lot more calm and ready to play football.”

Chaska’s defense held and, after a punt, gave its offense a chance to tie the score. The task in front of them: go 85 yards in four minutes.
They used nearly all that time to get the ball in the red zone. Goeman’s running, Arnold’s running and passing along with Seiffert’s hands set up the game’s biggest and deciding play. Chaska had a fourth and five in the Farmington red zone with 36 seconds to play.

For that size venue I don’t know if I have heard a student section get as loud as the Tiger students were as Chaska moved closer to the end zone. The crowd was at a fever pitch as Arnold set up in the shotgun one more time. The Hawks’ quarterback was pressured right off the snap and with Tigers draped around his legs the sophomore threw a desperation pass toward one of his receivers. The ball could only flutter a few yards past the line of scrimmage and another Farmington senior – Alex Chadwick -- picked off the pass to seal the 27-23 victory for the home team.

“Our senior class is strong,” said Ashton after the victory. “Everyone wants to get out and work hard.”

“From the beginning you don’t really know what you have,” said Froehling about his team. “As soon as that first game came around I noticed a calm confidence in these kids. We were playing a tough team in Rochester Mayo, who beat us last year. We kicked a bunch of field goals and I told the kids their demeanor is different. I told them about the calm confidence that I could feel on the sidelines. It was the same thing in a game like this. They just have to keep playing and they have to be there for each other and everyone is depending on each other. They have been able to demonstrate that each game.”

From seven wins from 2009 to 2011 to a 5-0 start in 2012, Farmington is calmly and confidently back at the top in the Missota Conference and near the top in Class 5A.


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