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Football preview: Tigers bring experience to Fischer’s second year

The scores of the final three games of last regular season, all losses, do a pretty good job telling the story of the 2015 Farmington football season: 53-21, 42-33, 42-26.

The new spread offense implemented by head coach Adam Fischer in his first year guiding the Tigers was a vast improvement over the ‘14 squad’s offense, which produced just seven touchdowns the entire season. But the bigger offensive numbers were still only enough to net the Tigers two wins as their defense struggled getting stops against bigger, stronger opponents in the South Suburban Conference.

The Tigers return eight regulars on each side of the ball this fall. Coach Fischer is hoping off-season work and another year of experience will pay dividends for both groups in 2016.

Offense

Fischer is expecting big things from his senior quarterback Kole Hinrichsen. As a junior, Hinrichsen threw for 1,679 yards and 16 touchdowns in eight games. Forty of those completions and five of the touchdowns went to wide receiver Mitch Fox, who also returns and provides size and speed on the outside. James Seivert caught 14 passes last season and can play every receiver position.

“The guys put in a ton of time in 7 on 7 and in the weight room. You can see the continuity between the quarterback and receivers, especially Kole and Fox. You can see they’re on the same page,” Fischer said. “They understand the routes and where holes are going to be in the defense and they’re able to attack and make adjustments.”

Two other weapons that will be at Hinrichsen’s disposal will be Bryan Aguliar and Brandon Deck. Aguilar will likely be the team’s primary running back after rushing for 249 yards while splitting carries with a couple other backs last season and Deck, who missed most of last season due to a back injury, will look to use his elusiveness both as a back and as a slot receiver.

“Those two guys are pretty dynamic with the ball in their hands. Bryan is a load to bring down and Deck is pretty shifty,” Fischer said. “We’re hoping to set up our pass with the run. If we can run the ball, it will give Kole some time and it’s going to put him in good positions.”

Aiding both the running and passing games will be a trio of returning linemen. Evan Holmstrom is back at left tackle, Luke Kriesel is ready to take over full-time at center and Bryant Aguilar will move to left guard after playing on the defensive line last season.

Defense

A couple of standouts are back to lead the Tigers on the defensive side. Darby Grengs, the team’s Ironman champion, is back at safety after leading the team with 75 tackles last season and Tanner Sundt, who has received several Division I scholarship offers, returns to his defensive end spot after bringing down 65 ball-carriers last fall.

Four players return with experience at linebacker: middle linebacker Brock Mogensen, Drew Johnson, Isaac Ferm and John Jacobson. Adam Weed saw time at cornerback and Zack O’Brien gained some experience at nose tackle.

“This group had a great off-season in the weight room. Physically they are ready to compete with the South Suburban Conference and in the district we play in,” Fischer said. “They’re bigger and stronger and they’re going to rely on that. They know the system better this year and that should allow them to play faster. Hopefully all the added strength will allow them to bring guys down that last year were dragging us.”

Schedule

The Tigers open the regular season Sept. 2 against a Mounds View team that defeated them 28-7 in last season’s opener and went on to finish with a 4-5 record. It will be Earl Wetzel Night in honor of the program’s all-time winningest coach, who died in February. Fittingly, the game will be played at Boeckman Middle School, which was the high school when Wetzel guided the Tigers to 126 wins, seven conference championships and three state tournament trips from 1980 to 1999.

Some of Wetzel’s family will be on hand for the game. They will be honored at halftime.

“It’s a nice opportunity for us to pay tribute to Earl and all he did for the community of Farmington,” Fischer said.

The Tigers then travel to Apple Valley in Weeks 2 and 3 to take on the two teams they beat last year, Apple Valley and Eastview. The schedule gets rather daunting after that with three straight games against the three teams that tied for the top spot in the conference a season ago: Lakeville North, Burnsville and Rosemount.

The Tigers then travel to Eagan in Week 7 before closing out the regular season with another road game at Lakeville South during MEA week.

“There’s no off week with the schedule we play,” Fischer said. “We know we’re going to have to be ready to play every week. We feel like if we can come out healthy at the end of the regular season we’re going to be battle tested and in good position. We’re not afraid of anybody in the state after making it through our regular season.”