08 September 2012

Tractor Trophy stays in Farmington

QB Darren Beenken totes the Tiger Trophy to his teammates
The Tigers managed to keep possession of the Tractor for another year, but the 2012 address of the homemade traveling trophy remained in doubt until the closing moments of the Tigers 27-20 win Friday night at Northfield.

Farmington controlled the ball for much of its Missota Conference opener but a handful of costly mistakes--three interceptions, ill-timed penalties, and a bad snap on a punt--kept the resilient Raiders in the hunt until less than a minute to play in regulation.

"I was really proud of the confidence and calmness the players show even through adversity," Tiger coach Mark Froehling said. "It was a great exciting game. There is lots to cheer about and lots to be proud of. Our whole team contributed to this victory."

The Raiders threatened first, taking the opening kickoff and running off 10 plays before the drive stalled on a quarterback sack on a nine-yard loss by Alex Chadwick.

The visitors responded with a marathon march of their own, this one a 15-play, 72-yard drive that ended with a six-yard scoring run by quarterback Darren Beenken.

Alex Chadwick gets ready to knock down a Raider pass
The seven-point lead held until late in the second period when Preston Robinson picked off a Beenken pass and returned it to the Tiger 10. The Raiders scored three plays later but Josh Boatwright blocked the extra-point try to make it 7-6 with 2:19 remaining in the half.

Beenken cranked up his right arm and guided the Tigers 75 yards in nine quick plays to make in 13-6 at intermission. The senior signal caller completed all four of his passes in the hurry-up drive and scored the touchdown from the one with just 14 seconds left.

Farmington lived up to its No. 8 state ranking on the opening drive of the second half with Athen Ashton and his back-up Derek Klotter slicing and dicing the Raider defense on a lightning quick seven-play, 90-yard scoring drive.

Ashton's four-yard dash scored the touchdown and with Reid Taubenheim's booming extra point, the lead was back to a seemingly comfortable 13 points.

But the euphoria didn't last long. A good kickoff return by Robinson plus an inopportune personal foul penalty on the Tigers gave the Raiders good field position and eight plays later it was back to a seven-point game at 20-13.

"We need to play more flawless football as part of our team improvement," Froehling said. "To Northfield's credit, they made some great plays and played hard. I told the boys it's a great team that can overcome those errors and still come through with a win."

Again the Raider score seemed to light a fire under the Farmington offense. In three plays, the second a 52-yard pass from Beenken to Jordan DeCroock, the Tigers found pay dirt with Ashton doing the honors from two yards out.

The game seemed to be winding down in routine fashion until a snap sailed over punter Taubenheim's head and into the end zone with 4:28 to play. Taubenheim ran it down and got off a sideways kick that hit in play but bounced back into the end zone where it was recovered by the Raiders for a touchdown.

All's well  that ends well

Froehling assumed some of the responsibility for the chaotic play.

"During the time out I didn't remind the boys of that possibility and what we should do in that event," he said. "Now we know."

All of a sudden it was back to a seven-point game and when Northfield recovered the ball on an onside kick moments later things went from bad to worse.

The Raiders advanced the ball all the way to the Farmington eight-yard line before the defense stiffened and turned the ball back to to the offense. Two kneel-downs by Beenken later the Tractor Trophy was finally safe.

"I was really proud of the confidence and calmness of our defense," Froehling said. "With fourth and goal with less than a minute left, they were not nervous. They were ready and excited to play that last down and earn a victory."

Ashton was again a workhorse for the Tiger offense that finished with 381 total yards, gaining 127 yards on 24 carries. Klotter picked up 37 on four tries.

Beenken had a productive night despite the three picks, completing 16 of 21 throws for 199 yards. He spread the completions out among six receivers. DeCroock had five for 76 yards; CJ Wynings three for 35; Mac Bassett three for 32 and Tyler VanWinkle two for 43.

Mason Auge led the Tiger defense with 11 tackles. Godfrey Mpetey had eight and Jon LeBlond five.

 " I thought defensively we were aggressive, ran to the ball well and had two impressive goal-line stands," Froehling said.

Next Friday the Tigers return home for a Missota Conference contest with Red Wing (1-1). The Wingers dropped a 30-6 decision to Shakopee Friday night.