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Football: 3-6 season paves way for future

A Homecoming shutout of Northfield was one of the highlights of the 2011 season for the Farmington football team.

It was rare to see a Farmington player on both offense and defense this season.

The Tigers instituted a platoon system this year that allowed players to focus either on offense or defense. The result, according to head coach Mark Froehling, was a team that showed up on Friday nights much more prepared as it won three games and played its opponents close into the fourth quarter in six of nine outings.

"The system allowed us to spend more time teaching and learning on both sides of the ball. The players liked it and the coaches liked teaching in that system. It really helped in our ability to execute," Froehling said. "We made a lot of improvements on offense and defense, even with quite a few younger football players in the game."

The increased attention to detail showed itself on the defensive end, where the Tigers gained confidence working in different blitz packages and coverage schemes. The defense gave up a total of 17 points in the team's three victories, including a shutout of rival Northfield on Homecoming, and held a powerful Owatonna team to 21 points on the road in the Section 1AAAAA tournament.

"I thought our defense was solid. They kept us in games for long periods of time," Froehling said. "Even in some of our losses there were some great things happening on that side of the ball."

Senior linebacker Drew Hegseth led the defense with 90 tackles. Senior Blake Weinand added 68 tackles and two interceptions and senior Ryan Schoening had 56 tackles. Other senior regulars on the defense were linemen Tyler Engel, Bret Hoffman and Andrew VanBlarcom and defensive back Andrew Peterson.

The offense will have less turnover as Athen Ashton will return at running back and Darren Beenken will report for his third year under center. Ashton rushed for 95 or more yards in five games and finished with 765 yards and seven touchdowns, while Beenken was 110 for 210 for 1,264 yards and nine scores while engineering the team's spread offense.

Beenken completed 10 or more passes to six different receivers: senior Nate Graham (26), senior Dillon Jones (21), senior Austin Bassett (18), John Dittman (17), Mac Bassett (13) and Ashton (12).

The Tigers also gained experience in special teams, where sophomore Reid Taubenheim proved reliable as the team's kicker and punter.

Taubenheim's field goal turned out to be the difference in the Tigers' first win of the season, a 17-14 home triumph over Chanhassen in Week 3. That game, the Homecoming win over Northfield that gave the team back the Tractor Trophy and the fifth-place finish in the Missota Conference were what Froehling recalled as some of the season's highlights.

Froehling also praised the effort of his 16 seniors, who he said set a good example for a team that 47 sophomores and juniors on its varsity roster.

"They were a great group of athletes at learning and teaching how to work together," he said. "They were a very unselfish group that wanted to work hard and wanted to learn. They set a great example of how to play the game together as a team. Without that, no matter your talent, you can't be successful. They set the table for that."