By JEFF LAMPE
For The Weekly Post
FARMINGTON – Some day, Virgil Haggard will have a heckuva story to tell his kids and grandkids. “Did I ever tell you the one about me blocking a kick by the best high school punter in the U.S.?” the Farmington senior center will ask.
Unlike many parental memories, this one will be accurate. And Haggard won’t even have to embellish how important his block was in a playoff game filled with wacky pitches, diving catches and big plays of all sorts.
That Farmington rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat El Paso-Gridley, 40-30, in a Class 2A playoff game was due in large part to the superlative play of quarterback Gage Renken, who passed for 199 yards, ran for 188 and had a hand in the Farmers’ final four touchdowns.
But along with all that Renken magic came plenty of other big moments for the Farmers (8-2), who advance to play at second-ranked Maroa-Forsyth Saturday at 1 p.m.
Haggard’s block early in the fourth quarter off the foot of University of Illinois recruit Declan Duley helped give Farmington a needed cushion in a game that had gone back and forth all afternoon.
“I asked him, ‘How did you get in there?’” Farmington coach Toby Vallas said. “He said, ‘No one blocked me.’ It was a huge play in the game. If you’ve had told me we were gonna win the special-teams battle, I’d have said you were nuts. But we did.”
The much-heralded Duley – who is heading to the U of I as a punter – also missed field goals of 47 and 38 yards and an extra point, though he did force a touchback on every kickoff and made a 28-yard field goal.
Still, EP-G needed its big foot to be on against a Farmington team that racked up 500 total yards. In the first half, the Farmers relied mainly on the run to rally after yielding first-quarter scores on a 72-yard run and a 44-yard pass.
“You get down two scores and it can go one of two ways,” Vallas said. “I’m just glad we chose this path.”
Behind the hard running of senior Rese Shymansky (85 yards), Farmington finally got on the board after Shymansky pounded in a 1-yard run late in the first. Not long after, another drive of nine runs and three passes led to a Logan Utt 4-yard scoring run to knot the game.
Then, after one of two interceptions on the day by Colin Terrell, Farmington ran on 9 of 11 plays before facing a fourth-and-10 at the EP-G 11-yard line. Speedy senior Logan Morse ran a slick delay route across the middle to take advantage of EP-G’s run-stopping linebackers and took a short pass into the end zone with 23 seconds left to give Farmington a lead it would not yield.
The second half offered more of the same, as EP-G tried to stop the run and got burned. First, though, came “the pitch.” After getting bottled up on a run, Shymansky made an unscripted lateral to Renken, who promptly took it 41 yards to paydirt for a 27-14 lead.
“We’ve never practiced that. It was kind of in the heat of the moment and we made a play,” Renken said.
“I love Rese, but he better never do it again,” Vallas said.
While EP-G rallied for three more scores, the visitors were unable to stop the Farmington pass game thereafter. After EP-G got within 26-23, Renken hooked up with Morse on a diving 24-yard pass play. Then came Haggard’s big block and the final Renken to Morse score.
“Once you keep running and running, they are going to focus more on the run and that opened up the passing game a lot more,” Renken said.
“They were in a position where they had to stop the run and they had to sell out a little bit and we caught them a couple times,” Vallas said. “Gage is an incredible person and an incredible player. I wouldn’t trade Gage for 100 D-1 guys.”
By JEFF LAMPE