Friday night will be a night the Farmington football team remembers for a long time. They held off a furious Eagan comeback in the third quarter to win 41-28 and spoil the Wildcats' homecoming. They won their first game of the season. But what they will never forget is playing in front of over 6,000 people at Twin Cities Orthopedics' (TCO) Stadium in the Minnesota Vikings' new practice facility and being the first high school football team to ever win there.
"It's pretty cool, it was pretty sick to be able to play on," sophomore quarterback Alex Berreth said.
An instant classic
Farmington struck first after they turned the ball over on downs at the Eagan 23. When the Wildcats took over, junior defensive back Luke Weierke took the ball right back with an interception deep in Eagan territory and sophomore running back Zac Janz scored from five yards out. The extra point by junior kicker Alex Kiage was good and the Tigers led 7-0 with 4 minutes, 53 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats responded on the next drive with a 57-yard jet sweep for a score and tied the game at seven apiece with 3:22 left in the first. The Tigers started their next drive at their own 16 and it was 7-7 at the end of the first quarter. Under a minute into the second, Berreth scrambled from one yard out for the touchdown after completing a big pass to sophomore wide receiver Eli Green. The extra point was no good and Farmington led 13-7 with 11:02 left in the first half.
From there, the Tigers turned it on and would not stop. After forcing the Wildcats to turn the ball over on-downs at the Farmington 34, Green snagged another big reception down to the Eagan one yard line and Janz scored again to make it 20-7 with 5:27 left in the half. Farmington scored again less than three minutes later after forcing Eagan to punt and senior wide receiver Alijah Moe scored on a 66-yard touchdown pass from Berreth. The Tigers led 27-7 with 2:49 left in the half. The Farmington defense would not be left out of the fun, however, and senior linebacker Zach Hanson brought in the second interception of the game for Farmington. Berreth then hit Moe again, this time from 19 yards out, for the score and it was 33-7 Tigers with under two minutes left before halftime. Senior captain Jameson Shrum then pulled in Farmington's third interception of the first half to stop Eagan before halftime.
Farmington seemed to have the game well in hand at halftime as the Eagan offense struggled to do anything and the Tiger offense could do no wrong. However, the script flipped in the third quarter as the Wildcats made a run that got them within a score of the Tigers.
Eagan started with the ball in the second half and went on a scoring drive that lasted over half the quarter to make it 33-14 Tigers with 5:34 left in the third quarter. Farmington was then stopped at the Eagan 24 when they turned the ball over on downs and the Wildcats scored on a 63-yard touchdown run to make it 33-21 Farmington with a minute left in the third. Eagan then took the Tigers by surprise when they attempted an onside kick and recovered it at the Farmington 40. At the end of the third quarter, Farmington's lead was cut to 33-21 and the Wildcats had the ball in Tiger territory.
The Farmington defense was able to stop the Wildcats on fourth down and take over at their own 30. However, almost immediately Berreth was picked and the Wildcats returned the interception for a touchdown to make it 33-28 with 10:02 left in the game and it was a brand new ball game.
After going three-and-out on their next drive, the Tigers were forced to punt but the Wildcats fumbled a pitch and it was recovered by Farmington at the Eagan 13. Janz then scored his third touchdown of the game and Berreth converted the two-point conversion to Moe to make it 41-28 Tigers with 6:01 left in the game. From there, the Farmington defense clamped down and Weierke pulled in his second interception of the game to help seal the win for the Tigers 41-28.
"Just to get here, walk around, take it in and enjoy it is one of the things I wanted for our guys," head coach Adam Fischer said. "Make a memory out of tonight and I think we did that. Once the whistle blows and the ball is kicked off its time to play football and I think our guys did that tonight. (It's a) pretty special opportunity, I mean it's really great for our program and our whole community. We had a lot of fans coming up from Farmington, the Little Tigers, the future football players of our community being able to see our guys out here and see them being successful is huge for our program."
Winning the first game ever at TCO would be special for any team, no matter what their record is, but this was also their Tigers' first win of the season after some heartbreakers to start the season.
"For us, it was all about the details," Fischer said. "Last week in our homecoming game, offensively we had some penalties, so our big thing offensively was to limit penalties. Defensively we wanted to execute and everybody just do their job and be disciplined. We've had some troubles giving up the big play, we saw that a little bit tonight but our guys responded."
Making just his second start of the season, Berreth certainly did not look inexperienced as he tore the Eagan secondary apart. He completed 16-of-25 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushing touchdown and a two-point conversion.
"Just really, really proud of Alex, he's been working really hard," Fischer said about his young quarterback. "He had a great summer for us, he was right on the verge the whole time. He stepped in against Lakeville North, his first start during homecoming in front of a huge crowd and then second start here. You see his character and his composure, he's a great leader out there and we're really excited about him and what he's been able to do."
Helping Berreth were his wide receivers, all of whom stepped up and made big plays the whole game. On top of that, the running game was just enough to keep Eagan honest. Green led all receivers with six catches for 105 yards, two of which set up Tiger scores. Moe had four catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns as well as a two-point conversion. Sophomore wide receiver Isaac Ask added three receptions and senior Dylan Freetly had two catches. Meanwhile, Janz rushed 31 times for 60 yards and three touchdowns.
The Tigers' defense shut down the Wildcats for much of the game and came up big when it mattered despite some troubles in the third quarter.
"We played with toughness, that was the biggest thing for us defensively," Shrum said about the defense's effort. "What we struggled on weeks prior to this week was not doing our job and we really emphasized it, staying tough, stuff's going to happen but you have to move on."
While Eagan was able to run for over 200 yards, their passing game was ineffective and the Tiger defense was able to force five turnovers (Weierke with two interceptions, Hanson and Shrum with one each and then the fumble recovery).
Pomp and circumstance
It was a big-game feel at TCO Stadium as both schools brought their bands and Eagan celebrated their homecoming. During the second quarter, a teacher from each district was honored as a Teacher of the Game by Country Financial and received a commemorative football and $1,000 donation to their school. Chosen for Farmington was Mark Froehling, who has taught for 33 years and 21 of which have been at FHS. Froehling teaches chemistry, is a retired football coach and was instrumental in helping establish the Fellowship for Christian Athletes (FCA) at Farmington.
After the game, the Tigers gathered as a team and were presented a trophy for winning the first game of the Minnesota Vikings' Prep Spotlight initiative. Farmington is now 1-4 overall and travels to Burnsville next Friday as week two of a three-week road trip for the Tigers. Eagan falls to 0-5.