Prolific offense or stingy defense? Farmington football can do it all

Adam Duvall
Journal Star
Farmington students cheer on their team during a game.

FARMINGTON — Offense or defense. Defense or offense.

Pick your poison when it comes to Farmington this high school football season. The Class 2A fifth-ranked Farmers (10-0) have been super sharp on both sides of the ball, scoring 44.8 points a game and allowing just 8.3 points.

With apologies to its offense, Farmington, who hosts Tremont (8-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the playoffs, has a defense that many coaches dream about. In its 10 games, Farmington has held five opponents to eight points or less and gave up 20 points just once this season.

And beating Tremont — Farmington’s second successive Heart of Illinois playoff foe — won’t be any small task.

Fullback Shemar Williams at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds is a big bruising back. He comes off an opening round performance where he rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns in a 19-0 win over Momence.

Tremont fullback Shemar Williams pulls away from a LeRoy defender who has a hold of his jersey in the first half Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 in Tremont. The Turks defeated LeRoy 42-12.

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“He forces you to commit a bunch of guys to him,” Farmington coach Toby Vallas said. “Anytime you commit a bunch of guys to him, it opens up something else. (Tremont) coach (Zach) Zehr or whoever calls their offense is very good at recognizing that very quickly.

“And that's one thing that I was really impressed with watch them on film is how quickly they took advantage of the mismatch once they got it.”

Defensively, the Farmers have relied on the core of Chris Haggard, Kevin Shultz, Reese Shymansky and Kane Fox.

But it’s been a group effort in putting together one of 2A’s top defenses. Vallas also credits guys like Logan Morse, Sam McMillin, Brock Capitani, Colin Terrell and Dillon Hood were being solid, week in and week out.

“It’s kind of a hodgepodge of guys,” Vallas said. “Those guys kind of came out of the woodwork for us this year and it’s paid big dividends.”

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Terrell and Tanner Kenney both had interceptions in last week’s 42-6 first-round win over El Paso-Gridley. Haggard anchored the defensive line and liked what he saw from his teammates.

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound senior was an all-area pick in the spring along with being named unanimous all-Prairieland Conference.

Chris Haggard, Farmington

“It's because, you know, how we play,” Haggard said of his team’s ability to shut teams down. “These guys out here putting that time and effort. They wanted the first win in the playoffs, and they took that next step and I think they really proved that (against El Paso-Gridley).”

Offensively, the return of Ethan Evans was huge for Farmington. Quarterback Gage Renken found his wide receiver on a short route he took 55 yards for a TD in the first quarter against EP-G.

A broken collarbone had sidelined the 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior since Week 3. However, No. 12 in purple and gold was back with his teammates for the playoffs.

Both of his catches — 75 total yards — went for TDs.

“I was all gas, no brakes,” Evans said. “I didn't care if I broke it again. I was so ready. I've been ready for seven weeks to get out there and play again.”

Evans is one of Farmington’s team captains and remained consistent in that role the entire time he was out.

“It's amazing having that guy back,” Haggard said. “He has energy on the field, great blocker, and you know, he's a team player.”

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at aduvall@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.