Football: Tigers blown out of playoffs
The Lakeville North Panthers and a steady 40-mile-per-hour wind teamed up to blow Farmington out of the Section 1AAAAA football playoffs Tuesday night.
The second-seeded Panthers overcame a slow start to lead 17-6 by halftime, then pulled away in the third quarter to post a season-high point total in a 39-14 win.
The Tigers (1-8) pulled within 7-6 on a 14-yard touchdown run by senior running back CJ Record with 3:36 left in the first quarter. The Missota Conference's leading rusher added a 52-yard scoring run on a fourth and 13 play late in the fourth quarter to give him 123 yards for the game and 1,006 for his senior season.
The Panthers got the ball to start the game and drove 55 yards on seven running plays for a touchdown. They then kicked off against the wind and the ball hit a wall of wind that resulted in a negative-12 yard kickoff.
After Record's score made it 7-6, the teams continued to battle the wind while trading punts of 15, 28, 39, two and 18 yards.
The Panthers added to their lead with a 26-yard field goal (with the wind) with 3:25 left in the first half. After a Farmington three-and-out and a 21-yard punt, the Panthers found the end zone again on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 47 seconds on the clock.
"I was proud of the kids for playing a tough first half. They were doing a good job of moving the ball a little bit and getting some defensive stops," Farmington head coach Mark Froehling said. "We let things get away from us a little with those long drives at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half."
The next Lakeville North kickoff sailed through the uprights -- the equivalent of a 70-yard field goal -- and the Tigers ran out the clock on a first half where they recorded just one first down.
Lakeville North scored touchdowns on its first two drives of the second half to go up 31-6, then blocked a punt out of the back of the end zone to tack on another two points. The Panthers closed out the 16-0 third quarter having outgained the Tigers 121-10 in yards.
"They started loading up the box, knowing we could only throw certain things," Froehling said. "It does make your zone cutbacks a lot tougher when they have those extra guys in there. It would have been nice if we could have spread them out a little bit more."
The Tigers didn't have their second first down of the game until a Record run on their second drive of the fourth quarter. Senior Tyler Grubb followed with a 59-yard touchdown run that was called back for a clipping penalty.
Record finally put the ball in the end zone again seven plays later and sophomore quarterback Darren Beenken followed with a two-point conversion run against the Lakeville North backups.
The Panthers capped off their dominating effort with a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes. They advanced to face cross-town rivals Lakeville South in Saturday's section semifinals.
The Tigers, meanwhile, were left with a long off-season to think about a 1-8 season where they dropped their last seven games.
"A couple of those were close football games that could have gone either way. We saw a lot of good improvement over the season in execution and ability to play competitive football against some good teams," Froehling said. "It's a credit to the kids that they continued to learn, work hard and never gave up. Every game was a new game and they kept doing their best."
Froehling will have to replace 17 seniors from his varsity roster, but he will have a lot more experience back next fall than he did this fall, when only three players with varsity experience returned to the team.
"This year we've got four sophomores back and other juniors starting, so we'll have a much higher number of guys who played a lot on Friday nights coming back. That will be a benefit," he said. "We'll have to piece together an offensive line. We graduate our top six lineman, so that's going to be major. We've got 65 ninth-graders playing and some good athletes in there, so we'll try to piece together them with our sophomores and juniors who are coming back. We'll have some holes to fill -- just like any other year -- and the kids coming up the ranks will work hard to fill them."