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A Homecoming cliffhanger for the Farmington Tigers

Farmington senior running back Athen Ashton cuts through the Chaska defense for a big gain during the first half of last Friday's 27-23 win at Tiger Stadium. The Tigers take a 5-0 record into tomorrow night's game at Chanhassen.

Friday night's Homecoming football game at Tiger Stadium had all the elements of a climactic scene in a cliché-filled sports movie.

There were high stakes -- the Tigers entered undefeated and ranked sixth in the state -- a couple of lead changes, a few big plays and a drama-filled final drive that brought the entire game down to one final play. The Homecoming King even made the game-sealing interception.

Alex Chadwick's pick on a desperation fourth-down floater over the middle with 36.4 seconds left ended a 13-play drive and any hopes of a Chaska rally as Farmington hung on for a 27-23 Missota Conference victory over the Hawks in front of the largest crowd to see a game in the four-year history of the new stadium.

The win improved the Tigers to 5-0 overall and tied them for first in the conference with Holy Angels at 4-0.

The Tigers led by as many as 10 points in the first half only to have Chaska come back to tie the score at 20-20 with 2:22 left before halftime. The home team responded with what turned out to be the game-winning drive, going 85 yards on nine plays in less than two minutes to set up a 25-yard rainbow from quarterback Darren Beenken to a diving Mac Bassett in the back of the end zone with 18.5 seconds left.

The defenses buckled down after the break, combining to force five punts and yield just a Chaska 31-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

"This was a great football game against a great football team," Farmington coach Mark Froehling said. "Chaska had a couple of really talented runners and they made some big plays on us, but the kids made big plays when they had to. Our goal line defense has been pretty tough this year. In just about every game they've made those kinds of stops and those are important. We're defending the end zone, that's how we look at it."

The Tigers made two such defensive stops in the final nine minutes of Friday's victory. The first came at the end of a 12-play Chaska drive that began in the final minute of the third quarter. The Hawks drove all the way from their own 16 to the Tiger eight before Chadwick sniffed out a misdirection run on third down to force the visitors into a short field goal.

The Tigers were able to run eight plays and eat up about four minutes of clock with their next drive, but ended up punting the ball back to Chaska with 4:21 to go. The Hawks drove from their own 15 to the Tiger 11 -- courtesy of three third-down conversions -- before a holding call and a short run set up Chadwick's game-clinching interception.

Chaska took its only lead of the game just 1:45 into the first quarter. A short punt set the Hawks up at the Tiger 40-yard line and three plays later it was 7-0.

The Tigers answered with a 10-play, 70-yard drive where senior back Athen Ashton ate up big chunks of yardage on the ground. A 29-yard pass from Beenken to Jordan DeCroock set up Reid Taubenheim's 25-yard field goal.

Taubenheim's tackle at the 32 saved a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, but Chaska failed to take advantage of the field position as it fumbled the ball away two plays later.

Beenken then completed passes to DeCroock, Johnny Dittman and Tyler VanWinkle to move the ball to the Chaska 24 and Ashton took care of the rest, bursting around the left side for a 24-yard scoring run to make it 10-7.

After a Chaska punt, the Tigers put together another 11-play drive that culminated in a 17-yard run up the middle by Ashton that made it 17-7.

The Hawks' explosive offense answered by going 78 yards in just six plays to score a touchdown of its own. Robinson blocked the extra point to keep it 17-13 midway through the second quarter.

A 41-yard field goal by Taubenheim put the Tigers back up by a touchdown before the Hawks tied the game with another big play, this time a 74-yard touchdown run, to make it 20-20.

Beenken finished the first half 13 of 16 for 176 yards and Ashton ran for 135 of his season-high 195 yards before halftime. Beenken ended up 16 of 22 through the air for 210 yards and scrambled for 34 more yards.

Beenken leads the conference with 907 yards passing and Ashton leads in rushing yards with 730.

Bassett led the FHS receivers with five catches for 59 yards. DeCroock had three for 65 yards.

Mason Auge paced the defense with 11 tackles, including a sack. John LeBlond had 7 1/2 tackles and a sack and Jack Erickson and Taubenheim each brought down five ball-carriers. Taubenheim tacked on three extra points to go along with his two field goals and his second-half kickoffs and punts forced Chaska to start its four drives at its own 14-, 20-, 16- and 15-yard lines.

The Tigers face another tough task tomorrow night when they travel to Chanhassen to take on a Storm team that defeated Chaska 18-7 earlier this season.

"They beat these guys, so we know they're a good team. They run the option and spread you out along the line, so we have to play assignment football against them," Froehling said.