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Football: Tigers top Northfield in final Missota meeting

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The Tractor Trophy won’t travel anywhere for a while.

The Tiger football team hoisted it one final time Friday night and ensured it would remain in its familiar spot in the Farmington High School trophy case by overcoming a 14-0 deficit to knock off Northfield 21-14 in their final Missota Conference opener at Tiger Stadium. The league will disband after this year, meaning the longtime Highway 3 rivals will not meet again on the gridiron in the foreseeable future.

On a night that featured its share of big plays, Farmington’s Mason Auge provided the decisive one. With the score tied and the Raiders driving inside the Farmington 40-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, the senior linebacker snared a tipped pass and returned it 65 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.

Northfield was forced to punt on its next possession, and could get no closer than the 34-yard line on its final drive before turning it over on downs with 34 seconds left. After allowing touchdown drives of 80 and 55 yards in the first quarter, the Farmington defense forced the Raiders into four punts, two interceptions and two turnovers on downs in their final eight possessions.

”We needed to be able to take care of their big-play personnel, so we gave them some underneath stuff early. When you do that you make them go a long way without making a mistake,” Farmington coach Mark Froehling said. “Early on they were taking that stuff, but then after the first quarter we started coming up and making tackles and putting them in long-yardage situations.”

While the Raiders were moving the ball up and down the field in the first 12 minutes, the Tigers were struggling to get anything going at all. After a pair of three and outs, the Tigers got their first first down of the game on the last play of the first quarter. They drove the ball into Northfield territory twice in the second, but turned the ball over on downs both times.

The Tigers got the ball back on an interception by Mason Gaylord with 1:46 left before half and needed just over a minute to march 75 yards for their first touchdown. Mac Bassett brought the ball across midfield on a 23-yard toss from Tyler VanWinkle, and two plays later VanWinkle split two defenders over the middle for a 29-yard touchdown strike to Jordan DeCroock. It was DeCroock’s fourth touchdown in two games this season.

“It was huge for us to get that big play. You could start to feel the momentum get going after that,” Froehling said. “We knew we were going to have to withstand their initial surge, so it was great how we came back strong and stayed together.”

Another big play finally tied the game midway through the third quarter. Facing fourth and 15 at the Northfield 35, the Tigers bypassed a punt or a field goal attempt from Reid Taubenheim and kept the offense on the field. Northfield called a time out to adjust its defense, but still had no answer when Bassett broke across the middle and caught VanWinkle’s pass in stride for a 35-yard touchdown.

“Coach Miskowicz saw something there and (Bassett) is a great football player. They singled him up on the back side and he made a great catch on a great throw from VanWinkle,” Froehling said.

Both teams came up empty on their next two possessions before Auge’s interception gave the Tigers the lead for good.

The Tigers (2-0) are back in action next Friday when they make their final trip to Red Wing to face the Wingers.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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