Car­di­nals Look To Fu­ture

10 FARM­ING­TON FOOT­BALL PLAY­ERS EARN AC­CO­LADES

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - SPORTS - By Mark Humphrey PHO­TOS BY MARK HUMPHREY EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

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.”

Zach New­man

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.”

Michael Sell­ers

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.

Ja­cob Rogers

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.

Ja­cob Gray

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.”

Drew Stur­geon

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.

Cody Par­rish

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.”

Xavier Staten

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.”

Sea­son Re­cap

“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.

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