FARMINGTON — The old adage of defense winning championships was certainly true for the Farmington High School Scorpions' football team in 2013.
Through 13 games this season, the Scorpions gave up only 86 points. That is an average of fewer than seven points per game. Holding No. 1-ranked Goddard -- a team that averaged more than 34 points per game entering Saturday's game at Hutchison Stadium -- to zero points in the Class 4A State Football Championship game was just icing on the cake for a defense that played with a chip on its shoulder all season.
"People were saying Goddard had won the state title by beating Los Lunas in the semifinals. We said, 'hell no.' We got a big goose egg on the board to win the state title," said Farmington senior linebacker Tierney Staley, who had two of Farmington High's four interceptions in the game. "We won because of our defense. That is the fundamentals. Blocking and tackling, and a bunch of freaking heart."
Saturday was the third time Farmington High held an opponent scoreless this season. The previous games came against St. Pius X and Aztec.
But winning with defense and ball control on offense isn't the most exciting thing to watch for casual fans or those who like to see a lot of points scored.
Following Farmington's 14-7 win against Belen in the semifinals, critics of Farmington's style surfaced.
"I'm pretty sure both teams set football back 100 years," one area coach told me of that game. "I just like explosive plays and points. Get more kids involved and excited to play."
But what is more exciting than winning a state championship? Nothing.
"It's that defense that wins championships," said senior linebacker Brian Farley. "Our defense was killing it out there. In a 7-0 game, it made every snap super important."
The Farmington fans embraced the power of their defense. Following three consecutive pre-snap penalties on Goddard due to false starts, the Scorpion faithful roared with delight. With each of Xander Walker's six punts that pinned Goddard inside its own 20-yard line, the fans rejoiced. It was reminiscent of the Nebraska Cornhusker fans cheering on their Blackshirts.
"The defense was the heart of our team, and they were phenomenal," quarterback Jacob Lucas said. "We were talking about reaching that level of perfection, and they were pretty close tonight."
Goddard had a chance to tie the game late with a touchdown. Facing first-and-goal on the Farmington 7-yard line, Goddard ran the ball to star running back Cody French, who picked up five yards. The Scorpions then stuffed quarterback Cameron Neff for a 2-yard loss and then French one more time. The noisy crowd for Farmington helped cause another Goddard false start, and then the Scorpions were able to stop the Rockets on fourth down to force a turnover on downs to clinch the state title. It was a perfect goal-line stand to end the year for one of the best defenses a coach could hope for.
"We just trusted the guy next to us all year. Every time we made a stop, it was kudos to the entire defense, not just the guy making the tackle," Farley said.
Farley entered the game with a right knee sprain, but showed he was healthy enough to play from the opening snap, stopping French for a short gain. Seeing Farley make that tackle let his teammates know he was 100 percent and ready to help lead the defense to a title.
"It was so fun to see Brian (Farley) out there. We were all worried he might not play, but we knew we had his back and that was it," Staley said. "We saw him make that first tackle, and we were in attack mode from there. It was the most fun we have ever had."
Winning with defense will never lead to high-scoring games, but it sure is a lot of fun. When a fan base like Farmington's rallies around that defense and recognizes its hard work, it helps build a foundation for defensive success for years to come. Every defense loves a 12th man.
"We all got here by working hard together," Farley said. "It is definitely great to have a 7-0 win like this in a state title game, because we deserve this and so do the fans."John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.