31 August 2013

Tigers down River Falls 30-20 with small ball

Derek Klotter led Farmington rushers with 114 yards (photo by Jim Lindquist)
It's a widely accepted theory that size plays a big role in the outcome of most football games. After all, how many coaches enter their new season saying  their team is bigger and stronger than the previous year

The Tigers stood that notion on its ear Friday night when a handful of economy-sized players produced most of the offensive punch in their season-opening 30-20 win at River Falls, Wisconsin.

Senior speedster Jordan DeCroock stood out, scoring three touchdowns, two on passes of 77 and 11 yards from Tyler VanWinkle and a third on an 80-yard kickoff return. According to the official roster, DeCroock weighs in at 160 lbs and VanWinkle tips the scales at 170.

"Jordan catches the ball well as both a receiver and returner," coach Mark Froehling said. "His elusiveness and instincts make him a great weapon for us."

Then there was starting tailback Derek Klotter who threw his 155 lbs. frame at the River Falls defense all night, finishing with 121 rushing yards on 14 carries. His back-up, 155-pound Noah Kary, was the team's second leading ball-carrier with 82 yards on 13 tries.

The other Farmington score came on a 16-yard pass from VanWinkle to 160-pound wideout Johnny Dittman.

Three extra points and a 41-yard field goal came off the foot of veritable giant Reid Taubenheim (185 lbs.) who also booted five of six kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

 "I don't think I've written 150 or 160 lbs. behind a player's name on a roster so much for a long time," Froehling said. "We have a lot of smaller players around here who can play football."

Johnny Dittman 3rd period TD pass (photo by J. Lindquist)
The teams played through a sluggish first half that saw the Tigers draw first blood on a VanWinkle-to-DeCroock bomb only to have the Wildcats return the favor with a return of an interception by Sebastian Larson. Taubenheim's long field goal gave the visitors a 10-6 halftime lead.

"They (River Falls) dictated the play in the first half," Froehling said. "We were flat and didn't play with any emotion. We can't play like that and expect to win."

Whatever message Froehling and his staff imparted at the break sunk in quickly. DeCroock picked up the bouncing second half kickoff, burst up the middle and outran everyone to stretch the lead to 16-6.

Minutes later a John LeBlond fumble recovery set up the touchdown throw from VanWinkle to Dittman and late in the 20-point period Klotter and Kary ran the ball exclusively from the Tiger 39-yard line to the River Falls 11 where VanWinkle connected with  DeCroock for the final Farmington points of the night.

The Wildcats scored a touchdown on another return of an interception and added a meaningless score against the Farmington reserves in the game's final seconds.

Offensive coordinator Lew Miskowicz said his team made its share of mistakes (4 turnovers) but all in all, he liked what he saw.

"We like to play fast," he said. "We have a lot of speed and athleticism and we want to use it. Tyler had a couple of mis-reads and those caused the interceptions. But he has a lot of poise in the pocket and this was his first varsity start. I'm sure he will keep improving."

VanWinkle completed seven of 14 throws for 125 yards, three touchdowns and three picks. DeCroock was the leading receiver with two grabs for 115 yards. Dittman had two for 21 and tight end CJ Wynings two for 13.

Linebacker Nick Ruark (left) had six tackles
The starting Tiger defense pitched a shutout with linebackers Mason Auge and Godfrey Mpetey leading the way in tackles with 7.5 and seven respectively. Mason Gaylord added 6.5, Nick Ruark six and Nick Meyer five, including a sack. 

"I thought we played a solid defensive game, especially in the second half," defensive coach Glenn Mogensen said. "We did what we were supposed to do and played with a lot more fire than we did in the first half."

"This is high school football and the first game of the season," Froehling said. "So you don't expect everything to be perfect.

"But we did a lot of things well. We know areas where we need to improve and that's what we will be working on next week."

The Tigers kickoff their final Missota Conference season next Friday night when they battle Northfield for possession of Tractor Trophy at Tiger Stadium. The Raiders defeated Irondale 21-14 in their season opener.

Tractor Trophy on the line Friday night