Cardinals Look To Future
10 FARMINGTON FOOTBALL PLAYERS EARN ACCOLADES
FARMINGTON — Coming into the 2017 season, the Farmington football team carried a little bit of a chip on its shoulder.
No one was pleased with results of a disappointing 2016 season in which the Cardinals finished 3-7 and won just two games among 5A West competition. They were outscored 267-180 and ended the season with three straight losses that bumped them out of the playoff picture. Head coach Mike Adams exhorted the team during off-season training to be prepared to “pay the price” for success and they responded.
The difference showed up on the field and in the statistics. Farmington improved from 2,548 yards of total offense from scrimmage in 2016 by nearly 1,000 yards. In 2017, the Cardinals racked up 3,530 yards of total offense and increased their scoring by 9.8-points-per-game. Season highlights included a 61-41 win over Clarksville during a scorefest and a tremendous come-from-behind, 31-30, overtime victory over Maumelle.
As a result of all this offensive production, eight Cardinals received All-Conference football honors for the 2017 season and two seniors, Caleb Williams, and Zach Newman, were named All-State. Three defensive players also garnered post-season awards.
ALL-STATE Caleb Williams
Caleb Williams (5-8, 190) progressed so much at tailback that he became the focal point of the Cardinal offense. Williams served as the workhorse toting the football 217 times for 1,234 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. He averaged 5.7-yards-per-carry. Williams also caught 8 passes for 174 yards out of the backfield averaging 21.8-yards-per-reception.
“Caleb had a really big year for us,” Adams said. “He became a much, more aggressive runner and broke a lot of tackles. He was real solid all year. Running track (in the spring) definitely helped him, there’s no doubt.”
Senior Zach Newman (6-3, 300) came back strong after he suffered a stress fracture in his leg late in the summer of 2016. Newman consistently drove defenders off the line on running plays and provided pass protection. Newman was twice voted All-Conference 5A West. Despite his size, Newman played a large role as a pulling guard on an offensive line that powered the Cardinals to 1,825 yards rushing, averaging 5.2-yards-percarry with 24 touchdowns.
“Zach Newman was a three-year starter, which is real rare on the offensive line,” Adams said. “He’s been the leader of that group the last two years. He has good technique. At 300 pounds, he’s a big, strong guy.”
According to Adams, Newman was the Cardinals’ most physical lineman and has pretty good feet for a guy his size. Adams simply stated, “He blows people up.”
Newman signed a national letter of intent to play college football for Arkansas Tech in February.
ALL-CONFERENCE Javan Jowers
Air Force Academy appointee Javan Jowers (5-10, 175) switched from safety to cornerback and still got involved in 71 tackles, 54 solos and 17 assists. Jowers picked off two passes which he returned for 29 yards.
“Javan played safety as a junior. We moved him to cornerback this year,” Adams said. “He was our best cover guy and still one of our leaders in tackles.”
Senior defensive end Michael Sellers (6-1, 205) exemplified the type of player coaches dream comes out for football.
“He has good technique, he’s always sound, one of our better pass rushers,” Adams said. “The guy gave you great effort on every play.”
Sellers racked up 27 solos and 12 assists for 39 total takedowns on the season. He was a disruptive force. Sellers overcame physical challenges, pain and fear of recurring injury to habitually pressure opposing quarterbacks and turn in 4 sacks.
“The guy had a bad ankle injury as a sophomore that cost him most of the year,” Adams said. “He hurt his shoulder as a junior and almost didn’t play as a senior because of that injury situation.”
Against Maumelle he broke on the quarterback with a hard rush from the left forcing a quick throw on a hurried roll-out to the right. The pass was batted into the air and intercepted by the Cardinals. In the Cardinals’ 61-41 win over Clarksville Sellers blocked a punt with a teammate recovering the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
Blue collar Jacob Rogers (5-10, 225) was willing to do what is often overlooked, yet earned All-Conference honors as a junior playing defensive tackle. The recognition didn’t come from the numbers. Adams described Rogers’ effectiveness that didn’t show up in the statistics. Rogers had 15 solo stops and 13 assisted tackles for a total of 28 with 1 sack.
“Obviously, he didn’t have a whole lot of tackles,” Adams said. “He made a lot of plays although he didn’t make a lot of tackles. Jacob absorbed a lot of blockers, taking up blocks, freeing up linebackers. He did his job and he did it very well.”
He had a strong tackle shedding a block at the line of scrimmage and knocking down a Pea Ridge ball-carrier at the point of attack in week two. He was particularly effective doing that in the trenches against Vilonia, at one point single-handedly stopping a misdirection. Rogers saw the handoff, didn’t bite on a fake as the quarterback pretended to bootleg back to the right, pursued the runner and took him down for no gain.
Senior Jacob Gray (6-2, 190) continued to star at tight end. He was a three-year starter and twice won the 5A West Outstanding Tight End award for his junior and senior seasons. He was a two-time All-Conference selection. Gray caught 17 passes for 203 yards, an average of 11.9-yards-per-reception with 4 touchdowns. Gray signed with Henderson State as an H-back in February.
A two-sport athlete, Gray split his time between football and basketball, which Adams said affected his weight training.
“Jacob hasn’t had as much time in the weight room, but he works real hard whenever given the opportunity,” Adams said. “He has real good hands. He’s become a better blocker. The biggest thing is he’s not been able to gain weight. They (Henderson State) will put him on a weight program to bulk him up a bit. They don’t have a tight end. He’ll be an H-back type guy and move around a lot.”
Versatile sophomore wide receiver Drew Sturgeon moved up to varsity for the final game of the season as a freshman in 2016 and became a starter a year later. He had the most catches of any Cardinal with 42 receptions for 613 yards, a 14.6 average, with 4 touchdowns.
“Drew brought a lot to us as a wide receiver,” Adams said. “He’s one of our fastest guys, if not our fastest, a big-play guy, who made a lot of acrobatic catches.”
Sturgeon filled a key role by handling the place-kicking duties.
“He brought the added dimension of being the kickoff guy for us - really solidifying that position plus being our place-kicker,” Adams said. “He had a big year for a sophomore.”
Sturgeon was a finalist for the NWA Touchdown Club Newcomer of the Year and named to the KURM Dream Team.
HONORABLE MENTION Trey Waggle
Quarterback Trey Waggle (6-4, 195) was a two-year starter, much improved over his junior season. He completed 109-of-198 passes for 1,730 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“Physically, he was always capable,” Adams said. “This year he was a better decision-maker. He didn’t have as many turnovers this year. Part of that was the run game, we didn’t have to rely on him to make plays so much. He grew into that spot. Like anybody, the more experience you get, the better you are.”
Waggle signed a National letter of intent to play college football as a deep-snapper for Northeastern State University of Tahlequah, Okla., on Wednesday, March 7, at Cardinal Arena.
Senior Cody Parrish (6-1, 190) started at center his junior and senior years. He also can play either guard or tackle. Adams calls him “a super smart” player, who scored a 32 on his ACT, then upped that score to 35 as a senior. Because he plays baseball in the spring, Parrish missed spring training, but still performed well enough to be named All-Conference.
“Cody is another guy, who plays football, basketball and baseball,” Adams said. “So he’s not had much time to lift weights. He got by on being really, really smart, knowing what to do and having great technique.”
Senior Xavier Staten (6-3, 185) presented a deep-ball threat. Farmington looked for him when he was isolated 1-on-1. Adams utilized Staten’s size to take advantage of mismatches. Staten earned honorable mention All-Conference last year as a junior. In 2016, Staten hauled in 29 pass receptions for 577 yards, averaging 19.9-yards-per-catch, with a long play of 76 yards and 5 touchdowns.
“He was a guy that you knew you could rely on on third down,” Adams said. “He was a matchup problem (to opponents) for us because of his size.”
“Overall, I’m pleased with the progress we made,” Adams said. “We went into the last game of the year (at Harrison) with something to play for.”
Had the Cardinals won that game, they would have secured the No. 4 seed from the 5A West in the state playoffs.
“Unfortunately, the top four teams in our league (Greenbrier, 41-33 loss; Alma 42-18 loss; Harrison, 42-24 loss; and Morrilton (42-14 loss), we had to play them at their place,” Adams said. “The schedule wasn’t real kind to us.”
Adams knows the program is edging closer to achieving its goal of first-time qualifying for the State 5A football playoffs. The veteran coach remains undaunted. His head coaching win-loss record stands at 197-138-2, three wins away from reaching the 200 career victories milestone.
“It’s a matter of getting a break or two and making the state playoffs,” Adams said. “Once we do, we’ll have established something for us going forward.”
Farmington senior quarterback Trey Waggle, shown passing to wide receiver Drew Sturgeon, was named All-Conference honorable mention. Sturgeon received All-Conference honors as a sophomore. The pair hooked up on 42 successful passes for 613 yards and 4 touchdowns.