Highlanders Self-Destruct Against Farmington, Fall to 2-2


Sophie Williams

Quarterback Kyle Wood shows his frustration in loss to Farmington

Ivan Martinez, Sports Editor

The road to the playoffs just got a lot rougher for the Adams Highlanders.

After bouncing back from a week 2 loss with an impressive 34-14 win over Seaholm, the Highlanders fell back to earth against the Farmington Falcons. The gut-wrenching defeat saw Adams surrender the lead with fewer than 30 seconds remaining in cataclysmic fashion. To add insult to injury, Adams was given a chance to make up for the collapse, only to see it slip through their fingers (or legs).  

Late game blunders aside, the real causes for the defeat were the Highlanders’ inability to stay disciplined, convert red-zone possessions into points, and defend the pass. These issues plagued the Highlanders all game long, leaving behind a laundry list of missed opportunities.

The game started simply enough, with both teams trading punts on four consecutive possessions spanning the first quarter. First downs were hard to come by, as dropped passes derailed any potential momentum for the Falcons.  Quarterback JDrew McGovern was 6-17 for 99 yards and an interception on the day, but could have easily torched the Highlanders for several more yards and a few touchdowns had his receivers not come down with a case of butterfingers. For the Highlanders, promising drives were cut short by penalties and some dropped passes of their own, including a couple of drive-killing drops on third down.

Finally, more than halfway into the second quarter, Farmington was threatening after a failed fourth down attempt had set them up at the AHS 35. Following two incompletions and an intentional grounding call on the subsequent three plays, it appeared as though Adams had held off the attack. However, the Highlanders’ tendency to commit foolish penalties at the wrong time reared its ugly head in the form of a personal foul penalty for roughing the punter. With their fourth-and-twenty turned into a new set of downs, the Falcons found new life.

The Falcons gained 42 yards on four consecutive carries, capped off by running back Kyle Brunson’s 23 yard scramble to score the game’s first points. A botched snap on the ensuing kick cost Farmington a point, but with 3:06 left in the half, the Falcons led 6-0.  

Sophomore Stephen Roncelli did his best to inject life into the Highlander attack before half-time, notching a 42 yard return off of the kickoff into Farmington territory. Setting up shop at the FHS 28, quarterback Kyle Wood wasted no time finding wide receiver Daniel Sanders down the seam for a 21 yard strike that may have been his best throw of the night (Wood would finish 7-19 for 97 yards despite being right on the money more often than not).

Having entered the red-zone for the first time, the Highlanders made their first (but not their last) blunder inside the twenty. Running back John Brucia coughed up the ball on a give up the middle, causing the ball to hang in the air for what seemed like an eternity before finally crashing to earth and bouncing into the arms of defensive back Kyle Brunson. The turnover essentially ended the first half, with Farmington holding on to a 6-0 lead.

The Highlanders came back firing in the second half, scoring out of the gate with a 12 play, 69 yard drive that took almost ten minutes off the clock. Brucia was entrusted with the ball three times inside the 25 yard line, and this time he delivered.  His tough runs of 18, 1, and 2 yards gave Adams a 7-6 lead over Farmington, with 5:37 remaining in the third quarter.

The Highlander defense, however, just could not wait to get Farmington back in the game, gift wrapping an early first down in the form of a pass interference penalty. Later in that same drive, Adams missed an opportunity to potentially get off the field by going off-sides on a third-and-1. Two plays later, Farmington was in the end-zone on the heels of Andre’ Sarfoh’s 62 yard run. A failed two point conversion gave Farmington a 12-7 lead with 4:23 left to play in the 3rd quarter.

With time and opportunities quickly fading, the Highlanders set out on a long drive try to recapture the lead. Runs from Wood and Brucia, along with a 14 yard snag by wide receiver Corey Beale, moved the drive along, with some occasional help from Farmington penalties. The drive stalled at the goal line, however, with Mark Patritto dropping an open pass along the goal line on third down and Kyle Wood throwing a pass out the back of the end-zone on fourth down.

After recovering possession on downs with 8:40 left in regulation, Farmington managed to play ball possession for over four minutes before punting to the AHS 36 with 4:22 remaining. Kyle Wood came up big on the drive with runs of 25 and 13 yards, as well as a one-yard run to punch in what was presumed to be the game winning touchdown.

After all, Adams had taken a 15-12 lead with only 1:19 remaining. Farmington had struggled with their kicker all day long, making over-time an unlikely outcome. And since Farmington had already used two of their time-outs, victory seemed certain.

That changed quickly when Andre’ Sarfoh took the kickoff all the way to the FHS 48 yard line. With terrific field position, it was as if the Falcons receivers had suddenly learned to catch, snagging passes for 36 and 8 yards on back to back plays. Placed squarely inside the AHS 10, Farmington took their final time-out with 0:44 remaining.

Farmington was knocking on the door, and back-to-back runs by running backs Jakkar Jackson and Josh Turner knocked the door in. A key extra point later, Farmington had taken a 19-15 lead with 0:22 seconds left. In just 57 seconds, Farmington drove the length of the field with more efficiency than they could muster in the first 58 minutes combined.

For all of their mistakes, there’s one thing you have to credit the Highlanders with – they are resilient. With 0:22 remaining, most teams would have thrown in the towel, just not this team. The possession began with a 33 yard return on the kickoff that gave Adams possession at the FHS 42 yard line with 0:12 remaining. It was then that Wood completed his longest pass of the night, a 26 yard beauty to wideout Corey Beale. With 0:04 on the clock, Adams used their last timeout, setting up one last shot from the 16 yard line.

From the pistol, Wood took the snap and saw that Beale had gained a step on the defender running vertically down the middle of the field. With little pressure from the opposing front four, Wood had all the time needed to deliver a game winning strike. But that didn’t happen.  Instead, Wood placed the ball practically between the legs of Beale as he ran open at the goal-line. Time expired and the Highlanders left the field, stunned, as the Falcons celebrated.
The loss is not only crushing, but worrying as well. The Highlanders like to think of themselves as a playoff team, but that was not a playoff-caliber performance. The offense couldn’t catch a cold, let alone a pass, and the secondary had more holes than Tienken Road. In addition, a lack of discipline led to more penalties than completions for the Highlanders, often ending drives before they started. And most importantly, the Highlanders couldn’t convert red-zone possessions into points. Adams scored a measly 15 points on five possessions inside the 20. A reasonable expectation would have been at least 24 points, and the best case scenario would have yielded 40 points. That is a lot of points left on the field, something a playoff-caliber team cannot afford to do.
With the talented Oak Park Knights coming into town this Friday, it is very possible that Adams will be facing a 2-3 record in a league that typically requires five wins to make the playoffs. Can a team that has yet to notch back-to-back wins seriously expect to win three of their last four games?

All of this means the stakes of Friday’s game are all too high. With their season potentially on the line, Adams will have to play smart, efficient football that is in stark contrast to their performance against Farmington.