How a single blowout loss changed Farmington's focus this football season

Adam Duvall
Journal Star

FARMINGTON — One recent loss has totally refocused Farmington’s entire approach.

The Farmers, who celebrated homecoming Friday with a 47-16 win over rival Elmwood/Brimfield, took to heart a Week 5 blowout to Macomb. Farmington (5-2) has rebounded nicely and very likely could head into the Class 2A playoffs as a very dangerous 7-2 squad.

What was learned from that 58-7 loss to the Bombers?

“Keep the penalties and mental mistakes on the low,” Farmington senior Gage Renken said.

More:The Peoria area's top performances from Week 7 of the high school football season

That’s been no problem for Renken. The 6-foot, 180-pound quarterback was 10-for-15 with 196 yards and four touchdowns Friday, hooking up for scores with Logan Morse (81 yards), Keauntry Barnes (78 yards), Tanner Kenney (27 yards) and Jack Wheelright (10 yards). The QB completed three passes each to Morse, Barnes and Wheelright.

“It doesn’t matter what the play is,” Renken said. “I can just count on them to get open, no matter what coverage, who’s guarding them, I can count on them to do their part.”

Farmington quarterback Gage Renken (16) passes the ball against Elmwood/Brimfield in the first half Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 in Farmington. The Farmers defeated E/B 47-16.

Morse says his teammate can see the field better than he did last season. As a 5-foot-10, 170-pound wide receiver, he has found another level when turning on the speed and developed unbelievable on-the-field chemistry with his QB.

Both Morse and Renken, though, are too modest about their abilities.   

“I definitely try to find the open gaps,” Morse said of what it takes to get open, “and try to weave in and out. I just run as fast as I can most of the time.”

And it seems that Renken can be relied upon in the run game, as well. His 86 yards were a game-high and hard earned, carrying the ball 14 times. Yards after contact also came into play for Renken, who fought every run for extra yardage.

“He’s not scared of no one,” senior Rese Shymansky said. “He’s our quarterback, but he hits people like a running back sometimes.”

As for Shymansky, he says he took a lot away from the Macomb game. The 6-foot, 215-pound running back knows his team’s potential, but thought they may have taken the Bombers too lightly.

Fixing mental mistakes and avoiding self-inflicted errors has been especially crucial for the Farmers.

“These last two weeks were pretty humbling,” he said. “… We realized we had to be more focused and mentally sharp for the (upcoming) games.”

Farmington defenders pull down Elmwood/Brimfield's Slone Windish in the first half Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 in Farmington. The Farmers defeated E/B 47-16.

More:The top 8 football games between neighboring rivals Farmington and Elmwood/Brimfield

Farmington got a good chance to show its mental toughness against Elmwood/Brimfield’s tough-to-defend run-heavy offense. The Farmers forced Elmwood to turn the ball over on downs in three of their first four drives.

All told the Trojans (4-3) were limited to 181 rushing yards and 75 passing.

“You just got to be mentally ready to hit,” Shymansky said of preparing for the Elmwood offense.

Farmington coach Toby Vallas says his team has practiced so well over the last couple of weeks. He credits his team’s focus to doing everything the right way. After last year’s 11-1 quarterfinal team possessed so much speed, the 2022 version of Farmington football comes a bit more deliberate in what they’re doing.

“People think," Vallas said, “ ‘Oh man, they’re just going to come in, and do the same thing they always did.’ It’s just not like that. … Last year, anything (on offense) could pop off. This year we’re learning we have to set up our own (offense).”

Elmwood/Brimfield's Tyler Scheps (23) takes a big hit from Farmington's Logan Morse after a pass reception in the first half Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 in Farmington. The Farmers defeated E/B 47-16.

Now, Farmington is eligible for the playoffs. That, however, isn’t what’s on the minds of Farmington. Improving every rep, every practice and every conditioning drill consumes the thoughts of each player.

Focus on what they can control and above all, be prepared.

“We can’t look too far ahead,” Renken said. “We just got to keep going, week after week.”

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