Football: Eagles soar past Farmington Tigers in Section 3AAAAA finals
Ninth-ranked Apple Valley scored 28 unanswered points in the first half and pulled away with 21 points in the last five minutes in its 49-21 home victory over Farmington in the Section 3, Class 5A championship game Friday night.
The Eagles showcased their advantage in size and athleticism on the line of scrimmage as they racked up over 500 total yards and held Farmington to 201. They improved to 8-2 and advanced to a showdown with No. 1-ranked Totino-Grace in the opening round of the Class 5A state tournament, while the Missota co-champion Tigers bowed out at 7-3.
"You're always looking to win a conference championship in the regular season and earn a good playoff position. You want to get to the section championship and get a chance to play for a trip to the state tournament, which we were able to do," Farmington coach Mark Froehling said. "They made a good showing in the playoffs and represented their school and conference well. This group of athletes did a great job achieving a lot of their goals."
Despite an early 28-7 deficit, Friday's championship game started out well for the Tigers. After a fumble recovery by Joe Rucci, quarterback Darren Beenken found Johnny Dittman for a 55-yard touchdown pass that made it 7-0.
The Eagles answered with four straight touchdown drives. They piled up 354 total yards, including 240 on the ground, and had a 15-2 advantage in first downs by halftime.
"We came out and ran some hurry-up offense so their defense couldn't get set and bring all their pressure. We got out to a pretty good start with the pass to Johnny, but after that we had a hard time along the line of scrimmage. We couldn't control it on offense or defense, really," Froehling said. "They had a lot of athletic running backs and big, athletic linemen, so we knew we needed to control the ball and control the clock as much as we could and we didn't do a good job of that."
That changed in the third quarter. The Tigers strung together a couple of touchdown drives to move within 28-21 early in the fourth quarter.
The opening drive of the second half featured four straight completions by Beenken and six strong runs by Derek Klotter that set up a 13-yard touchdown toss from Beenken to Mac Bassett.
Later on, a John LeBlond fumble recovery gave the Tigers the ball deep in Apple Valley territory and Beenken wasted no time finding Bassett for a 21-yard toss that made it a one-score game.
The Eagles responded with their biggest drive of the game, eating up a large portion of the third quarter as they traveled 74 yards on 13 plays to go up 35-21 with 4:35 to go.
A failed fourth-down attempt set up Apple Valley's next score and a long interception return set up touchdown No. 7 in the final minute.
"I was happy with the way the kids came back in the second half and played good, tough football. We mixed up our run and our pass a little better and had a productive couple of drives," Froehling said. "Our defense did a good job forcing a few punts, but in the end we just couldn't sustain drives, so we were forced to pass the ball and we gave them some short fields."
Beenken finished 12 of 21 through the air for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Dittman, Bassett and Jordan DeCroock each hauled in three passes.
Jack Erickson and Mason Gaylord each intercepted passes.