FARMINGTON — The Farmington High football team is well ahead of where it was one year ago.
Last year, the Scorps entered the season still trying to navigate the ins and outs of new head coach Jeff Dalton’s system. But as next week’s season opener draws closer, Farmington is filled with a confidence only a year of experience can provide.
“I think the biggest differences between this year and last year is we’ve developed more weapons, and we really settled into the scheme a lot more. The kids are more confident in it,” Dalton said. “Last year, we were all rookies, in a sense, and this season, we’re going in with some experience. Hopefully, that helps us, especially early in the season.”
The Scorps are coming off an 8-4 season in 2015. Last year, the team relied heavily on its speed to spread the field on offense and swarm to the ball on defense, and Dalton plans to use a similar approach this season.
Farmington had little trouble on the offensive side of the ball last season, averaging 295 passing yards and 144 rushing yards per game. The team will return starting quarterback Kody Becenti, who had a 59 percent completion percentage while throwing 30 touchdowns against seven interceptions last season. Dalton said the experience Becenti gained and the success he had during his junior campaign could set the senior signal caller up for an even impressive season in 2016.
Coming off a year in which he was one of the best passers in the state, Becenti said he’s ready to show how much better he can be after spending the summer focused on the upcoming season.
“This summer, I really invested in this position and tried to work on all aspects of the game the position demands,” Becenti said. “I’m really trying to give my team the best opportunities possible this season.”
However, Farmington’s wide receiver corps was hit hard by graduation. The team’s top three receivers — who combined for 62 percent of the team’s receiving yards, 72 percent of the team’s receiving touchdowns and 58 percent of the team’s receptions — are gone.
Dalton said there haven’t been any players who have set themselves apart during the preseason. Instead, there is a group of five or six players whose routes could dice up secondaries and open up Farmington’s offense even more.
The Scorps also return their two leading rushers from a year ago in junior Axel Fowler and senior Donovan Gonzalez. Fowler set the pace out of the backfield with 908 yards and 13 scores while Gonzalez proved to be a big-play threat after running for 337 yards on just 28 touches.
Farmington’s secondary appears to be its strength on defense. The Scorps will return three players with starting experience from last year with junior Mason Ross leading the group.
“We’re still pretty young, myself included,” said Ross, who started every game for the Scorps last season. “We’re pretty much all juniors, and I need to take it up a step and help show them the way. I think we’ll be pretty successful as long as we’re all engaged in the game.”
The Scorps aren’t only young in the secondary, but across the board on defense. Dalton said there are just three projected starters on defense who are seniors, but like the defensive backs, they all saw ample playing time as underclassmen.
The Scorps will open their season on Aug. 26, hosting crosstown rival Piedra Vista at Hutchison Stadium.
“All offseason we’ve been focused on PV. That’s our biggest rival, and that’s our only focus right now,” Ross said. “It gives us the motivation to really work harder. We know we have to take it a step up, not doubt ourselves and be confident in what we do.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.