The benchmark of an otherwise rocky 2014 season for the Farmington football team was an impressive shutout win at Poplar Bluff.
It took only four offensive plays Friday night for the Mules to prove that the rematch between SEMO North conference rivals would be much different.
Senior quarterback Tristen Francisco scorched the Knights through the air, connecting on 15-of-28 passes for 351 yards and five touchdowns as Poplar Bluff prevailed 44-30.
Jerrid Moore made receptions for 197 yards and three scores. His 17-yard grab over the middle capped the game with 2:32 remaining after the Mules drove 80 yards and had three 3rd-down conversions.
Brayden Krause caught seven passes for 183 yards to highlight the Farmington offense, including an 82-yard strike from quarterback Brandt Busenbark to bring the host squad within 22-19 early in the third quarter.
He was briefly injured on second effort while attempting to run a fake punt from his own end zone later in the period. The failed gamble also handed premium field position to the Mules.
Moore caught a 12-yard touchdown pass on the next play, and Poplar Bluff added the subsequent 2-point conversion with the absence of a kicker due to soccer obligations.
Donovan Howard answered instantly with an explosive 88-yard kickoff return, and Farmington got an ensuing defensive three-and-out while gathering momentum.
But a fumbled handoff was recovered by Poplar Bluff (3-0) at the Farmington 5, and Francisco scored on a keeper to restore a 38-27 advantage.
The Knights settled for a 19-yard Krause field goal with 7:12 to play after having first-and-goal from the Poplar Bluff 3-yard line, and Francisco completed four straight passes to seal the outcome.
Busenbark was 11-of-21 passing for 223 yards, and found Tappan Westbrook on a 21-yard fade to slash the Poplar Bluff lead to 22-12 just before halftime.
Krause keyed that successful 2-minute drive with 40-yard reception after breaking multiple tackles and spinning into the open field.
Senior linebacker Steven Haley recorded two sacks for the Mules, and stuffed a fourth-down run near the goal line after Farmington quickly moved down the field on the game’s initial drive.
The Mules needed just one play to make a statement as Francisco took a reverse and threw from his own endzone following a bobble to a wide-open Moore for a 99-yard touchdown.
Krause caught a 15-yard pass to tie the game at 6-6, but Poplar Bluff regained the lead for good three plays later on a 21-yard catch by Tyson Cox plus the 2-point conversion.
Ross Rushin broke free for 58 yards on the previous snap, and Cox later netted his second touchdown on a 39-yard slant through a seam in the experienced Farmington secondary.
Francisco ended with 87 rushing yards, and showed poise on the game’s clinching drive behind a line that dominated. Moore and Joe Darlin moved the chains with leaping catches in double coverage.
Farmington (2-1) managed just 129 yards on the ground, and two failed chances to finish possessions inside the 5 proved costly.
Each team had one turnover, and the Mules overcame 13 penalties. Brayden Moon recovered a fumble for the Knights, who will host Jackson in week 4.