Section 3, Class 5A football: Tigers win wild one
Saturday night's Section 3, Class 5A semifinal was anything but your typical grind-it-out, late-October football game.
Second-seeded Farmington and third-seeded Minneapolis Southwest opted to stick with their pass-friendly spread offenses and it paid off for both teams. The two offenses combined for 84 points despite temperatures that dipped into the upper 20s at Tiger Stadium.
But it was the Farmington defense that stepped up to make the game's biggest plays when it mattered most. After Southwest (8-2) rallied to tie the score at 35-35 in the final minute of the third quarter, the Tigers forced three straight turnovers in the fourth quarter and quarterback Darren Beenken found Mac Bassett for a pair of touchdowns to give the Tigers a 49-35 victory.
John LeBlond's sack as the final seconds ticked off the clock wrapped up Farmington's first section tournament win since 2006. The Tigers (7-2) will play for the section title Friday night at top-seeded Apple Valley, which advanced past Saint Louis Park 38-7 Saturday night.
Big plays came early and often for both teams Saturday night. The Tigers got on the board first when Beenken stepped up in the pocket on a 3rd and 14 play and found Johnny Dittman for a 44-yard touchdown. That capped a 10-play drive and made it 7-0 with 3:54 left in the first quarter.
After Southwest's second straight 3 and out, Beenken connected with Bassett for the first of three touchdown tosses, this one from 67 yards out, to make it 14-0.
The Lakers then went 3 and out for the third straight possession, but got the ball back when a failed blocking assignment led to a Beenken fumble inside Tiger territory. Six plays later, Talon Benavides ran the ball in from 18 yards out to put the visitors on the board.
Another Farmington turnover led to Southwest's next touchdown. After a punt pinned the Tigers inside their own 10-yard line, running back Derek Klotter fumbled the ball into the arms of linebacker Alfred Hartwell, who carried across the ball across the goal line for a touchdown. Alex Chadwick blocked the ensuing extra point to preserve the Tiger lead at 14-13.
The Tigers responded with their best drive of the game. Beenken completed a 12-yard pass to Johnny Dittman, a 23-yarder to Tyler VanWinkle and a 15-yarder to Jordan DeCroock before escaping a sack and lofting a 14-yard pass to tight end CJ Wynings, who made a diving, rolling catch in the end zone for a touchdown.
Farmington coach Mark Froehling then opened up his bag of tricks, calling for an onside kick with two minutes to go before halftime. Reid Taubenheim's kick bounced perfectly into the arms of Nick Ruark to give the Tigers the extra possession, and three plays later Klotter turned the corner for a 25-yard touchdown to make it 28-13.
The Lakers had just two first downs in the first half, but they proved resilient in the third quarter and outscored the Tigers, 22-7. They opened with a seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive, and then came up with a pair of big plays - a 65-yard pass and a 56-yard run - to tie the game.
Farmington's lone score of the quarter was a nine-yard touchdown run by Klotter, which was set up by a blocked punt by Chadwick.
The final play of the third quarter ended up setting the tone for the decisive fourth. On a second and nine from his own 26, Beenken once again escaped the grasp of a Southwest lineman and heaved the ball to VanWinkle, who tore down the sideline for a 61-yard gain before being taken down at the 13.
Two plays later, Beenken lobbed the ball to Bassett in the back of the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown.
The Lakers countered with another long drive, but Mason Gaylord came up with an interception at the five-yard line to preserve the lead. The Tiger offense then marched 95 yards on 10 plays to set up another lob from Beenken to Bassett that made it 49-35 with 4:50 to go.
A play later, Gaylord hauled in a tipped pass for his second interception. Ruark put an end to another Laker fourth-quarter drive with a fumble recovery.