Football: Chasing one last Missota trophy
The Farmington football team will have plenty of experience to rely on this fall as it chases one last Missota Conference championship.
The Tigers return eight starters on each side of the ball from last year’s team that finished 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the conference, good enough for a share of their fourth title in the last eight years. The league will disband after this school year, and the Tigers would like to add one last piece of Missota hardware to their trophy case before moving on to the South Suburban Conference.
“That’s certainly a goal. I think we can be competitive and challenge for the conference championship,” said head coach Mark Froehling, now in his 14th season at Farmington. “We’re going to work hard to achieve that goal.”
The Tigers will also make the jump to Class 6A this year where they will join south metro schools Lakeville North, Lakeville South, Eagan, Eastview, Park, Rosemount and Burnsville in Section 3.
“It will be a little bit of an unknown for us. There are some of the top teams in the state and certainly some formidable opponents in there,” Froehling said. “Where we lie within that group remains to be seen.”
The Tigers reached the finals in their Class 5A section last year where they lost to Apple Valley – a third-place finisher in the South Suburban Conference – 49-21.
Farmington, long a traditionally run-first team, moved to a spread offense the last three years to utilize the arm of quarterback Darren Beenken. Froehling plans to continue to feature a strong passing attack with Tyler VanWinkle under center. The senior will have plenty of offensive weapons around him as honorable mention all-conference receivers Mac Bassett and Johnny Dittman, as well as wideout Jordan DeCroock and tight end CJ Wynings are back in the fold.
“(VanWinkle) has some experience playing the position and has looked good so far. He can run it a little from that position and can throw the ball well. He has a great understanding of the offense, so I think he’ll fit into that role well,” Froehling said. “We have most of our receivers back, so that will be a strength of our team. (VanWinkle) is doing a good job of distributing the ball to them.”
VanWinkle will also be backed by a pair of running backs who saw some varsity time last year. Derek Klotter and Noah Kary both got carries last season when starter Athen Ashton went down with an injury, and Froehling is expecting the duo to get the bulk of the carries this year.
Most of the team’s uncertainty comes on the offensive line where Josh Patterson and Ryan Gowen are the lone returning starters. Froehling said there are some promising players competing to fill the rest of the line, including senior Alex Robinson.
“Our inexperience and our lack of depth on the line is something we’re going to have to watch,” he said. “We’ve got 6, 7, 8 kids who can be good along the line, but that’s not a large number for five positions so we need those younger kids who’ve never started on a Friday night to be prepared to grow into those roles.”
The Tigers will once again rely on their speed rather than their size as they try to slow down opponents.
Defensive MVP and all-conference performer Mason Auge (103 tackles) heads up a group of linebackers that also includes Godfrey Mpetey and Nick Ruark.
In the secondary, the Tigers return defensive backs Jack Erickson, Kevin Clifton and Mason Gaylord, as well as strong safety Eli Rockett.
All-conference player John LeBlond is the team’s top returner on the defensive line.
“It should be helpful for us to have an effective defense with experience that will allow them to be ready early in the season,” Froehling said. “They’re still not very big, but they’re good athletes with good speed. We’re going to have to use that to our advantage and get to the football.”
Other players who could make an impact on the defensive side include senior Nick Meyer and juniors Tanner Thode and Michael Thompson.
Reid Taubenheim will once again take on the kicking duties for the Tigers. Last season he set several school records, including longest field goal and field goals in a game. He had hip surgery in the off season, but spent the summer attending kicking camps and is expected to be ready to go.
Taubenheim and Mason Gaylord are among those competing to do the punting.
Klotter and DeCroock are the favorites to take on kick and punt return duties.
The Tigers open the season on Friday, Aug. 30, with a road game at River Falls (Wis.). The Wildcats had a record of 4-4 last fall.
The Missota Conference season opens with a home game the following Friday when the Tractor Trophy will be hoisted for the final time against Northfield. The Tigers then travel to Red Wing for their final conference game against the Wingers before coming back home to face New Prague in Week 4.
The team travels to Chaska for Week 5, hosts Chanhassen in Week 6 and travels to Richfield to face Holy Angels in Week 7 before closing out the regular season with a Wednesday MEA Week game against Shakopee on Oct. 16.