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Challenges await Tiger football in new conference

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It’s going to be a season of transition for the Farmington football team.

The biggest change will be who the Tigers compete against from week to week. After many years playing in the now-disbanded Missota Conference, the team will enter the South Suburban Conference this fall. Last season, the South Suburban sent three teams to the state quarterfinals, including Rosemount, which shut out Farmington 49-0 in the opening round of the section playoffs.

The team itself is going to look a lot different, as well, with just four starters returning after last fall’s 4-5 campaign.

“We know going in this is going to be a big challenge. We’re not hiding the fact that every game is going to be tough and we’re going to have to play the best football we can. We’ll work to improve each game,” said head coach Mark Froehling, who has guided Farmington to an 82-57 record in 14 seasons. “We’ve got some good athletes coming in to fill those roles vacated by the graduated seniors. The big thing is getting experience and that’s going to be a growth process throughout the season.”

Varsity experience is in especially short supply at the offensive skill positions. The only holdovers on the offensive side are senior linemen Edwin Martinez (5-10, 265) and Jake Roepke (6-5, 257). Combined with an incoming group that includes juniors Adam Roschen (6-2, 275) and Braeden Peterson (6-4, 275), they give the Tigers some size to work with up front.

“An important aspect of how much we can improve over the year and how much success we can have depends on how well we play up front. A key for any team is playing well there and staying healthy,” Froehling said. “There’s certainly some potential there for a good line.”

That line will protect a pair of first-time varsity quarterbacks who saw time under center for the JV team last season — senior AJ Croucher and junior Hunter Siegler. They will work with a group of receivers that includes Kevin Robertson, Alex Zitzmann and Tyler Johnson.

“Both AJ and Hunter are capable athletes and are picking up the offense well,” Froehling said. “They’re both doing a great job acting as leaders. Both of them can be effective as good quarterbacks for us.”

Froehling also named two running backs he expects to get a bulk of the carries — senior Nick Buhta and junior Christian Groves.

“Christian is a little faster and Nick probably has a little more strength at the point of attack, running through tackles,” Froehling said. “Both of them have the ability to make some nice cuts and find the holes in the defense.”

The Tigers’ defense will feature a pair of returning starters — seniors Max Aldana and Tanner Thode. Aldana played defensive back last season and Thode was a lineman, but Froehling plans to move both to linebacker this season.

“Max worked hard in the off-season on his strength and speed. He is a very intelligent player,” Froehling said. “Tanner is a big, strong athlete that can move really well. He can also play tight end and make an impact for us.”

Other impact players on the defensive side could be linebackers Blaine Colaw and Logan Haakana, defensive back Gavin Bassett and lineman Michael Husnik.

“There are a variety of athletes that are going to come in and fill those roles,” Froehling said. “There are some kids that are going to be quality athletes for us. A lot of them will be first-time starters and the biggest thing will be working on the communication that it takes to play on that side of the ball.”

On special teams, senior Dylan Hammerschmidt is the favorite to take over kicking duties. Several players are competing to do the punting.

The Tigers open the season at home next Thursday against Wayzata. The Trojans went 6-3 last year, with their three losses coming against Eden Prairie, Lakeville South and Totino-Grace.