Coach Mark Froehling spoke to the team during practice at Farmington High School on Wednesday, September 18, 2013, in Farmington, Minn. ] (RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER • firstname.lastname@example.org)
Farmington coach Mark Froehling knows firsthand there is no quick fix for a football program that is struggling. There are just too many pieces to the puzzle.
“We had to teach our players how to get through difficult times,” said Froehling, who is in his 14th season at the helm of the Tigers. “Everything isn’t always going to be perfect. You’re going to have difficult times throughout your life.”
A case in point is Farmington football from 2009-11. The Tigers compiled an overall record of 7-19 during that three-year span after winning the Missota Conference in 2008.
“It wasn’t like we didn’t have good athletes,” Froehling said. “We just didn’t have enough of them.”
The Tigers bounced back to share the conference championship last year, and are 4-0 midway through the 2013 season. They won back-to-back league crowns in 2005 and 2006.
“The kids have to decide when they want to make a difference,” Froehling said. “The game is more than winning championships, but that is a goal.”
Froehling also had to go against his usual philosophy along the way. That meant having sophomores appearing in his starting lineup.
“We had six seniors who started as sophomores on last year’s team,” Froehling said. “I don’t like to do that, but those three-year starters helped us become successful.”
He only has one three-year starter, senior linebacker Mason Auge, on this year’s roster. But the Tigers have 16 two-year starters, including senior quarterback Tyler VanWinkle. He was a wide receiver a year ago.
“I played quarterback as a sophomore for the junior varsity, so I have some experience,” VanWinkle said. “The only difference is I’m passing the ball instead of catching it.”
A year ago, VanWinkle caught 16 passes for 266 yards. Through the first half of this season, VanWinkle has completed 48 of 84 passes for 652 yards with eight touchdowns.
“I have to work hard, and try and get better each week,” VanWinkle said. “The last half of the season is going to be a bit more difficult.”
Farmington’s final four games of the regular season are against its toughest opposition. It plays Chaska, Chanhassen, Holy Angels and Shakopee in succession.
“It’s going to be a tough last half of the season,” said Auge, the leading tackler on the defensive unit.
The Tigers split those four games a year ago. They lost at Chanhassen and Shakopee, and wound up sharing the conference title with Chanhassen and Holy Angels.
“The end of last year was a little disappointing,” Auge said. “We didn’t end the season the way we wanted to.”
Auge and his teammates plan on a different outcome come the middle of October.
“I feel like we can put the finishing touches on it this year,” Auge said. “We have to seize the opportunity.”