Somerset football finds progress; New Richmond preps for Homecoming game
After a dejecting loss to Ellsworth the previous week, the Somerset football team found some needed progress in last Friday’s 44-20 win over New Richmond.
For the Tigers, the game left them looking for a more complete effort. The Tiger coaches felt the defense played well in one half and the offense played well in the other, but they want to see that productivity carry over to a full game.
The New Richmond-Somerset rivalry has as much passion behind it as ever and that was clear from the intensity seen from the players and coaches. For much of the first half, the teams battled evenly without either team showing an advantage.
It wasn’t until midway through the second quarter that the first touchdown of the game was scored. Somerset fullback Max Praschak broke the scoring drought, breaking a quick opener for a 53-yard touchdown with 6:37 left in the second quarter.
The Spartans scored quickly again on their next possession. A 45-yard run by quarterback Reed Baillargeon, plus a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Tigers, moved the ball to the Tiger 6-yard line. Praschak finished off the drive moments later.
A Somerset blunder gave the Tigers hope and momentum heading into halftime. Somerset was trying to run a reverse, but the handoff was muffed. New Richmond linebacker Ben Werner scooped up the gift and ran 33 yards for the touchdown. That cut Somerset’s lead to 16-6 heading into halftime.
“I was so happy for Ben,” said New Richmond coach Keith Badger. “He hustled into the right spot and the ball bounced into his hands.”
The Tigers needed that play badly, because Somerset’s defense had hushed the Tiger offense all through the first half. New Richmond had one first down in the opening half, coming on a 25-yard run on a quarterback draw by Sevin Davis.
The Spartans had a few big plays in the first half, but they would break away numerous times as both offenses stepped up their production in the second half. Somerset got the first big play of the second half when halfback Bailey White took a pitch and sailed down the sideline for an 80-yard score. It was one of several big plays for White, who intercepted a pass and a two-point conversion attempt.
Somerset added another touchdown three minutes later. A bad snap put the Tigers in bad field position and their punt was returned by Somerset’s John Sullivan to the Tiger 24. Baillargeon scored three plays later on an 11-yard scamper.
The passing combination of Sevin Davis and Connor O’Loughlin quickly moved the Tigers into position for their offensive first score. They combined on a 25-yard pass, before clicking on a 51-yard pass that moved the ball to the Somerset 1-yard line. O’Loughlin got the touchdown on a 1-yard plunge.
The fourth touchdown of the third quarter came on the quarter’s final play. Sullivan got the ball on the pitch and swept to the right like it was a running play. He was able to find Heaven Hunt in the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown pass, making the score 38-14.
Both teams scored once in the fourth quarter. The Tigers scored two minutes into the quarter, after a long kickoff return by Davis. O’Loughlin got the score, carrying a pitch six yards around end.
New Richmond tried an onside kick and the Spartans recovered. The Spartans used that good field position to put on one of their longest drives of the season, with Praschak capping the drive on a 2-yard run.
@t:Establishing the offensive line was one of the goals for the Spartans in this game. The Spartans had a good share of big plays, but they also produced several drives the coaches were looking for.
There’s no arguing with the Spartans’ offensive production, with four ball carriers gaining more than 80 yards. Praschak finished with 152 yards and Baillargeon, White and Adam Marty all were in the 80s. That left Somerset with 442 yards rushing in 60 attempts.
“We came off the ball better and we blocked longer,” said Somerset coach Bruce Larson. “Our quarterback play was substantially improved.”
The Spartans had a number of players get minor injuries in the game, which tested the team’s depth. At one point, the fifth and sixth halfbacks on the depth chart were on the field together.
Somerset’s defense was led by a pass rush that forced 20 incompletions by the Tigers. Gaelin Elmore, Dalton Johnston and Tyler Lueck led the pass rush.
@t:Badger said the Tigers were uncharacteristically selfish in this game. He said a number of penalties were one sign of that. Another sign was players straying from their responsibilities. He said several of Somerset’s big plays in the second half were the result of Tigers who got caught up in Somerset’s numerous running plays up the middle. They tried to slide to the middle to help stop those dives, and that’s when Somerset popped the ball to the outside for a big play.
“Everyone had a job and they did it in the first half,” Badger said. “We had little mistakes in the second half that had a big impact.”
Badger said the defense should be proud that it stopped Somerset on fourth down several times in the first half.
“Defensively, we have a good plan every week. I never go into a game concerned about our defensive play,” Badger said.
The Tiger offense managed just 156 total yards in the game.
@t:New Richmond is at home this Friday, while Somerset tries to lock up a spot in the WIAA playoffs when the Spartans play at Amery.
New Richmond will host Middle Border Conference leader Ellsworth this Friday in the Tigers’ Homecoming game. The Tigers need a win on Friday to keep their hopes alive of reaching the WIAA playoffs this season.