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After surprising 2021, Farmington gunning for league title

The Cardinals were 7-3 last year in J.R. Eldridge’s debut season.

SBLive is previewing the Arkansas high school football teams from the three largest classifications. Today, we feature the Farmington Cardinals from the 5A-West Conference. 

By Steve Andrews

FARMINGTON CARDINALS 

HEAD COACH

J.R. Eldridge, 2nd season

2021 AT A GLANCE

Overall record: 7-3

League record: 5-2, 3rd in 5A West

Playoffs: Lost to White Hall 31-17 in the first round.

KEY PLAYERS DEPARTED

OL Jackson Boudrey - Selected to play in the 2022 Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star football game. Will be playing at Hendrix College.

RB Caden Elsik - Will play baseball at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo.

WR Justin Logue - The team’s leading receiver last year and a focal point of the passing game.

DL Braden Bullington - Was a stalwart up front for the defense.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Junior QB Cameron Vanzant Voted the Underclassman of the Year for the state for All-Arkansas Preps. Completed 168-of-260 passes for 2,330 yards and 27 touchdowns last season.

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Junior C Hunter Marshall – The 5-foot-8, 240-pounder will bolster the middle of the Cardinals line.

Senior OL Riley Lockard The 5-foot-11, 265-pound pounder should be a staple on both sides of the line.

Senior RB Trey Mosier – The speedy senior will lead a backfield committee hoping to replace departed All-State back Caden Elsik.

Senior WR Peyton Funk – Looks to be the primary target for Vanzant, replacing departed all-stater Justin Logue. “I think Peyton is one of the best receivers in the state,” Eldridge said.

Junior S Sam Wells Got off to a hot start last season with five interceptions in the first four games.

OUTLOOK

Second-year Cardinals coach J.R. Eldridge was content with his program’s progress last season but hopes to make even bigger strides in 2022. The Fayetteville native captured back-to back 4A state titles at Arkadelphia in 2017 and 2018, then led North Little Rock to the state title game before taking over the Farmington program a year ago. He led the Cardinals to their best record since 2011.

“We’ve had some great momentum going from spring football into summer, and we’ve got to keep that momentum going,” Eldridge said. “Like everybody else, we’ve got to stay healthy. And we need some of our younger guys that we are counting on to step up and play up to that higher level of football.”

The Cardinals have an experienced quarterback, in 6-foot-1 junior Cameron Vanzant, that will hope to prove once again that he can make plays with his arm and his feet. Vanzant, who also plays baseball in the spring, continued to show up at the football fieldhouse each morning in the offseason to work out and throw passes.

“First of all, he’s just a great kid and a hard worker,” Eldridge said. “During this off-season, he was showing up at 6 a.m. with (starting receiver) Peyton Funk, working on throwing and catching, and getting their timing down. Cameron also has the ability to use his feet to put him into position to make plays. If our protection breaks down, with his athleticism, he is able to make something happen.”

The Cardinals will run a spread-multiple offense, depending on how the defense lines up. Although they will start in the spread, they will mix it up with other personnel groupings, often using a tight end and an H-back. Two of Vanzant’s primary receivers will be a pair of seniors, Funk and Lawson Devault. The running game will be led by senior Tray Moser, who will try to fill the void left by the departure of All-State running back Caden Elsik. But a stout line will help, led by junior center Hunter Marshall and senior Riley Lockard.

Farmington whave eight starters back on defense, which will be a 4-3 base, transitioning into multiple alignments, again, depending on the opposition. The front will be led by seniors David Stettmeier and Carter Moad, with an experienced linebacking corps that includes seniors Cooper Gardenhire and Drew Disheroon, along with junior Zach Ralston. Junior Sam Wells will man the strong safety position, where he had five interceptions in the first four games a season ago.

COACH SAID

"When we show up every day, No. 1, we want to make a positive difference in the lives of our teammates. If it’s not fun these days, there’s a lot of other things these kids could be doing other than playing football. But, No. 2, we want to compete for, and win, conference and state championships. That takes belief and a great work ethic. And I think we’ve got players that are hungry to be successful." — JR Eldridge